CONOWINGO — A transformer containing approximately 20,000 gallons of mineral oil caught fire at the Wildcat Point Generation Facility on Wednesday, creating a plume of thick, black smoke that could be seen for miles.
No one was injured during the fire, which started about 1:45 p.m. on the grounds of the power plant at 1385 Rock Spring Road, according to Shena L. Crittendon, director of communications and public relations for Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, which owns the Wildcat Point Generation Facility.
Firefighters and ODEC employees monitored the oil-fueled fire after it had been brought under control, and it “burned itself out” about midnight Wednesday, some eight hours after it had started, Crittendon updated Thursday.
Dozens of firefighters with several Cecil County volunteer fire companies, as well as ones in the region, had battled the initial blaze.
“The fire is contained and is being allowed to burn itself out. It is non-toxic and does not present any environmental hazard,” Crittendon explained late Wednesday afternoon, noting, “Local fire departments responded to the scene immediately. All construction workers and Wildcat Point staff are accounted for and there are no injuries.”
Approximately 30 ODEC workers returned to the site on Thursday, according to Crittendon.
However, about 600 skilled, contractual PCL Construction workers involved in a major expansion project did not return to the site Thursday, she said. Those workers are expected to return to the site Friday or Monday at the latest, Crittendon added.
“There is an investigation to determine what caused the transformer to start burning,” Crittendon said.
As of Thursday, the monetary loss caused by the transformer fire had not been determined, according to Crittendon, who noted that the blaze was contained to the transformer.
The power plant is in the midst of a $800 million turbine expansion project that is slated to be finished by June 2017, and it involves those contractual PCL workers, who are from various states, as well as some from this region.
“There is no other damage to the facility and construction on the project is not expected to be delayed,” Crittendon said.
During the transformer fire, evacuated workers — most wearing hardhats and safety vests — gathered near the northern-most entrance to the plant. Some relaxed in the shade.
Meanwhile, a line of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles occupied the lane closest to the transformer fire, a short distance south of where the evacuated workers congregated.
Among the fire companies and agencies on the scene were the Cecil County Hazmat Team, the Maryland Department of Environment and Water Witch Volunteer Fire Co. of Port Deposit, which served as fire scene command.