Courtesy of Bryan Rickman
A transformer fire burns at the Twentymile Coal Mine electrical substation Tuesday night. West Routt Fire Protection District firefighters knocked down the blaze in about 20 minutes.
Updated June 15, 2011 at 12:29 p.m.
Routt County A blown transformer caused a fire at an electrical substation at the Twentymile Coal Mine in western Routt County on Tuesday night.
The West Routt Fire Protection District and the Routt County Sheriff’s Office were called to the mine at about 9 p.m. Tuesday for a report of flames coming from the substation.
West Routt Fire Chief Bryan Rickman said the fire caused an estimated $500,000 in damage and has cut off power to the mine indefinitely. He arrived on scene shortly after 9 p.m. and said his crews extinguished the fire by 9:30 p.m.
The fire is not considered suspicious, Rickman said. He said an animal might be to blame for the blown transformer.
No one was injured as a result of the fire. West Routt Fire Protection District crews had to wait until the electricity was shut off going into the substation before they could douse the fire with water, Rickman said.
“We didn’t have any trouble at all knocking the fire down,” he said. “But you can’t fight the fire when electricity is still going into it.”
Because the water pumps at the mine don't work when the power is out, Rickman said his team used one of Twentymile Coal Mine's 10,000-gallon water wagons to fight the blaze.
Yampa Valley Electric Association spokesman Jim Chappell said YVEA provides the power to the substation at Twentymile Coal Mine, but that the mine owns the substation equipment, including the transformer.
Chappell said the Tuesday night incident tripped YVEA's power lines in the area. Officials isolated the outage and were able to restore electricity to most other YVEA customers in the area, Chappell said. He wasn't sure Wednesday morning how many rural customers might still be without power today.
The coal mine, one of the most productive in the country, is operated by Peabody Energy under the subsidiary of Peabody Twentymile Mining LLC. The mine produced about 7.7 million tons of coal in 2010, and about 1.7 million tons of coal in the first quarter of 2011, according to reports filed with the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The mine has about 400 employees.
It is not clear if all mining operations have ceased as a result of the loss of electricity. A call to a Peabody spokesperson wasn't immediately returned Wednesday.
Check back at SteamboatToday.com for updates on the incident.