Chesire, OH – Deluge sprinkler system extinguishes transformer fire at power plant

A transformer at General James M. Gavin Power Plant in Cheshire caught fire early Sunday afternoon, causing black smoke to rise that could be seen for miles across the Ohio Valley.

According to Tammy Ridout, manager for media relations and policy communications at AEP, the 1 p.m. Sunday fire was a caused by a failed generator step-up transformer on Gavin Plant Unit 2. This transformer is what handles the generator voltage and increases it to match the transmission line voltage so that power can leave the plant.

The plant is connected to the grid by 765 kilovolt transmission lines — the highest rated voltage in the U.S. The plant currently has about 275 employees. Middleport Fire Chief Jeff Darst said the fire occurred in what is known as Unit 2, where the tranformers are kept behind the plant and can’t be viewed from the road.

Pomeroy, Middleport and Rutland fire departments were called to the scene and no injuries were reported. Ridout said Unit 1 was not affected and remains in operation.

“The local fire departments were a big help in containing the fire,” Ridout said. “We’re still investigating the cause and are working on a recovery plan to restore the unit to operation.”

The Gavin Power Plant is located in Cheshire up the road from the smaller Kyger Creek Power Plant. It is a 2.6-gigawatt coal-fired power station — the largest facility of its kind in Ohio and one of the largest in the nation.  Cheshire resident Robert Roush said he could see the smoke from his home.

Ridout said that Meigs County fire stations, including Middleport, Pomeroy and Rutland fire departments, were called to the scene, but the flames were contained before they arrived. The fire was extinguished by a deluge system, or an activated sprinkler system, she said.

“Unfortunately, when you are dealing with large electrical equipment and there is some type of equipment failure, it can cause a fire,” Ridout said of the previous incident. “We have systems in place such as fire suppression systems, the fire brigade at the plant, training for our employees and relationships with local emergency responders and in this case, those systems worked and we were able to put the fire out safely.”

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