Fire breaks out at STPUD plant |

Fire breaks out at STPUD plant

Christina Proctor

Billows of smoke alerted workers to a fire in the filter building of the water treatment facility off Black Bart Avenue around noon on Thursday.

The fire was quickly contained and authorities said no toxic chemicals were released in the blaze.

Mike Adams, South Tahoe Public Utility District’s underground repair supervisor, and two other employees first noticed the fire and immediately shut off power to the building from the outside switch box. No one was in the building at the time.

After the first engine arrived on scene at 11:57 a.m. it only took firefighters from Lake Valley and South Tahoe Fire Departments about 30 minutes to contain the fire to an upstairs file room. Merle Bowman, South Lake Tahoe Fire Department division chief, said the fire started from sparks created by workers conducting a welding operation in the room. Bowman said the sparks ignited paper files stored in the room. The fire was discovered approximately an hour after the workers left.

The steel building is the last stop in the wastewater treatment process before it is pumped over Luther Pass into Alpine County.

Phil Trella, operation supervisor, said the facility pumps at least 4 millions gallons of water out of the basin every day. In the last stage of the filter process no chlorine is used. The system in the damaged building is run by a computer, but Thursday, officials said operations should be up and running again by that afternoon. Plant supervisors said even if there was damage to the computer chips the process could be done manually, therefore avoiding the need to use the district’s 60 million gallon retention basin.

Bowman estimated the damage to the structure at $22,000, and the value of the contents destroyed around $65,000. Several expense meters, which were stored in the building, were lost.

Dawn Forsythe, information officer for South Tahoe Public Utility District, said from early indications it appears that the district’s insurance policy will cover the damage.

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