EAST CHINA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – Fire crews have finally extinguished a blaze at a power plant along the St. Clair River in Michigan that sent smoke into the air that was visible for miles, authorities said Friday.
There were no reports of injuries in the fire, which was reported about 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the DTE Energy St. Clair Power Plant in East China Township. A coal-fired generation unit that produces electricity inside the facility caught fire, the utility said in a statement.
“Employees were evacuated immediately and safely,” Detroit-based DTE Energy said. “At this time, there are no known injuries at the facility. DTE successfully invoked its emergency plant procedures and shut down all other units at the site.”
Just before 9:30 a.m. Friday, DTE Energy said the fire had finally been extinguished. First responders remain on site to monitor the situation.
“Now that the fire is extinguished, we will have limited access to the plant to begin accessing the situation. We expect the plant to remain closed and do not have an estimate at this time as to when the plant will reopen,” DTE Energy said in a statement. “Air monitoring systems remain in place with readings continuing to be well within normal limits outside the facility perimeter.”
Firefighters from across St. Clair County were called to the plant, about 40 miles northeast of Detroit, as thick, billowing black and gray smoke rose from the burning structure.
“At the height of the incident, every fire department in St. Clair County was involved,” said Jeff Friedland, director of Homeland Security Emergency Management for St. Clair County. “We had mutual aid from Macomb County, Sanilac County, Lapeer County and also Ontario, and we also had assistance from the city of Detroit, their fire department sent their fire boat out to help us support water supply.”
No residential evacuations were ordered, but roads in the area were closed and traffic was detoured away from the plant.
“We had been monitoring the smoke, there were no hazardous materials or anything in the air other that smoke itself,” said Friedland. “So, there were not any evacuations. I know some residents did button up their houses, you know, close their windows and turn off their ventilation devices.”
DTE President Trevor Lauer said the plant is offline, but that isn’t expected to affect services. Homes and businesses will remain on-line as the cleanup continues.
The plant has been in service since 1953 and employs 294 workers, who are now being re-assigned to other DTE facilities, according to the company.
“This is a major incident. They’ve had smaller situations that were handled very quickly and efficiently, but nothing the size of this,” said Friedland.
DTE Energy said in June that coal-fired units at the plant are among eight at three of its facilities that are slated to be shut down within the next seven years.
The units in East China Township, the River Rouge facility in the Detroit area and the Trenton facility in suburban Detroit are to be retired between 2020 and 2023, DTE Energy said.
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