Local News

Crews Continue To Investigate Cause Of Substation Fire

Posted August 8, 2001

— Progress Energy

officials still do not know what caused explosions and a massive fire at its southeast Raleigh substation Tuesday night.

Police and fire crews remain at the scene, but they say they do not know what caused the fire.

The substation serves downtown Raleigh and demand for power Tuesday afternoon almost hit a record. More than 20,000 customers lost power due to the fire.

"I know there's a lot of speculation about the heat and demand, and certainly we had a high demand yesterday, but we're still not sure what happened yesterday," says Progress Energy spokesman Keith Poston.

The charred remains of the power station will take months to repair and cost millions of dollars. In the meantime, two mobile units will provide power to customers.

The fire started at the substation, located at the corner of MLK Boulevard and East Street, around 8 p.m Tuesday.

The fire was under control by 10:30 p.m., but crews battled flare-ups throughout the night. Foam and chemicals are being used to douse hotspots which continue to smolder and flare up Wednesday afternoon.

Power was restored to customers throughout the night, and to all customers by 6:45 a.m. Wednesday.

People living in the southeast section of the city and points beyond reported seeing a cloud of black smoke towering over the area. Later, a large ball of fire erupted.

Poston said the top priority was the safety of residents, then finding out the cause of the blaze.

Emergency crews blocked off streets and monitored the area all night while residents had to sweat it in the dark on one of the hottest nights of the summer.

A two-block residential area was evacuated as a precaution after two transformers exploded.

Fire officials say the smoke was not toxic. Poston says a flammable, liquid mineral oil was involved.

"They used mineral oil as a coolant and that is what was involved in the fire. We're talking about approximately 6,000 to 8,000 gallons of mineral oil," he says. "We don't know how much of it burned, but based on what the fire chief said, it looks like a lot of it."

A one-block section of East Street is blocked and will be for most of the day.

No one working at the substaion was injured.

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