Fire at Kleen Energy Plant in Middletown

The two-alarm fire that broke out in a turbine at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown this morning is mostly out, but the fire chief expects crews to remain at the scene for most of the day as they carry out what he said is a labor intensive process. 

Firefighters responded to 1349 River Road at 7:06 a.m. on Wednesday and found an oil fire on the floor of the turbine house that spread to the turbine housing and insulation, according to Robert Ross, chief of Middletown South Fire District. He said that has to be removed from the turbine area, taken out of the building and extinguished.

At 7:24 a.m., a second alrm was requested and more help came in from Middletown, Westfield, Cromwell, Durham and Middlefield fire departments.

New Haven Fire department responded with a regional foam trailer and manpower. 

The Middletown Emergency Management, Building Office, Health Department and Mayor’s office are assisting at the scene. 

The State Fire Marshal’s office, Fire and Explosion Investigations Unit of the CT State Police, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and Department of Energy and Environmental were also at the scene, assisting with managing and mitigating the clean up.

Ross said the turbine is in a concealed room and it appears that there was a malfunction with the cooling oil.

"The fire, for the most part, has been extinguished," Ross said during a news conference at 9:45 a.m., but there is a lot of cooling oil on the floor and it will be a labor intensive procedure to "fully extinguish what went on within the turbine area."

The fire was under control at 8:15 a.m.

"It's going to be very labor intensive. It's a confined space, so we have to have our personnel on air packs. We have to have rescue teams standing by," Ross said.  "We expect that we're probably going to be here the remainder of the day until we have it fully extinguished, but at this point, the major event within the turbine is under control."   

Around 50 firefighters responded this morning.

No injuries are reported and the plant remains open, officials said.

Mayor Daniel Drew said there was a quick, professional response and firefighters put the fire out quickly.

On the morning of Feb. 7, 2010, Super Bowl Sunday, there was an explosion at the plant. Six people were killed and several others were injured.

Officials said this fire was nothing in comparison to this fire.

"There's no similarity whatsoever," Ross said. "This is a relatively small fire. The plant is not closed. The other turbine is operating, is producing electricity. When you compare the tragic events of four years ago, this is nothing compared to that."

The impact was isolated to the turbine and no evacuations were necessary.

"There would be no need to evacuate. There would be no need to notify anybody. The impact of this is isolated to the turbine itself," Ross said. 

At the time of the explosion in 2010, the plant was under construction and workers were using natural gas to purge the pipes.

Just eight days before the tragedy, workers used the same procedure without triggering an explosion.

After that fatal explosion, the National Fire Protection Association released a new standard advising against the use of flammable gas in cleaning pipes at gas-fueled power plants.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board also released recommendations.

Kleen Energy now uses nitrogen to clean its piping.

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