- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Colorado Springs Utilities is making spot power purchases after a major fire shut down one of its plants, the company’s energy general services manager said Tuesday.

At a news conference a day after the blaze at the aging coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant, John Romero said other plants were supplying most of the power, but that a few spot purchases had been made. Romero said it is too soon to say when or whether Drake will be operating again, or how the shutdown will affect rates. With the heavy demand of summer approaching, his company was considering scenarios that could include longer term outside power purchases, he said.

“We certainly want to see the plant come back up,” Romero said.

Colorado Springs Fire Chief Chris Riley also spoke at the news conference, saying the fire caused extensive damaged to equipment and superstructure, including to one of the three turbine units. The main fire was out, but the insulation was still smoldering, Riley said.

The cause of the fire remained unclear, and the investigation was stymied by safety concerns, he said.

“We’re not feeling comfortable sending folks in there until we can do some more assessment of the damage,” Riley said.

One contractor was hospitalized and 62 employees were safely evacuated during the fire. Tuesday, Romero did not have an update on the contractor who was hospitalized.

More than 22,000 people lost electricity for about 30 minutes, and police and firefighters evacuated homes and businesses within three blocks of the plant.

It was the second fire at Drake in 12 years. In 2002, a breaker on a large fan failed, sparking a blaze that shut down half of the plant for several weeks, forcing the utility to buy power from other sources.

The Colorado Springs City Council, which acts as the utility’s board of directors, has been considering whether to keep Drake in operation or scrap it in favor of cleaner, more efficient power sources, such as natural gas.

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Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

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Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

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