Kirkwood expects to open lifts Saturday
January 1, 2010
ALPINE COUNTY, Calif. – After closing lifts early this afternoon when a power generator caught fire, Kirkwood Mountain Resort expects to open the mountain at 9 a.m. Saturday.
At about 2 p.m. a filter in the engine of a power generator overheated and caught fire, a blaze which eventually consumed the building it was housed in.
“The roof caught fire and it burned and did not stop burning,” said Tim Cohee, Kirkwood senior vice president.
People working in the generator’s building began to smell smoke about 30 to 40 minutes before the fire began to blaze, giving them time to evacuate Kirkwood staff and visitors. Another 150 employees were evacuated from an employee housing building. No one was injured in the fire.
About half of Kirkwood’s guests who made reservations for the weekend canceled, Cohee said. The remaining, about 2,000 people, are still at the resort, waiting for power to come back on.
“We’re feeding folks with pasta and taco dinners,” Cohee said.
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Kirkwood had one portable power generator at the resort, and two more are being driven from Yuba, Calif. Those will provide more than twice the amount of energy needed to power the mountain and the valley, Cohee said. They will also be able to power the mountain and the valley for the rest of the season.
Power is expected to be restored to the valley later tonight.
The fire could cost the mountain “a few to several millions,” Cohee said.
“We don’t know yet for certain, but it certainly burned a lot longer and a lot hotter than we thought it would,” Cohee said. “I think the building is toast, and most if not all of the equipment.”
The generator is relatively new and Cohee said its manufacturer, Caterpillar, will examine what caused the fire.
“There will be a full investigation,” he said.