Fire ignites at Gypsum biomass power plant |

Fire ignites at Gypsum biomass power plant

Enterprise staff report
Wood chips ignited and resulted in a large fire alarm at the Gypsum biomass plant over the weekend. Nummerous local agencies responded to the scene and battled the fire for eight hours.
Photo courtesy Michele Ziccardi |

A conveyor carrying wood chips into the Eagle Valley Clean Energy biomass power plant in Gypsum sparked a pre-dawn fire over the weekend, rallying fire fighter crews from as far away as Rifle.

At about 4:05 a.m. last Saturday, during a routine inspection, a plant employee discovered the fire started at the top of an outdoor conveyor belt system. The fire spread along parts of the conveyor system, disabling it, but did not touch the main plant’s buildings. No injuries or major damage were reported and an investigation is under way to determine the cause of the fire.

The facility has temporarily ceased power production while the conveyor system is repaired.

“All of us here at Eagle Valley Clean Energy want to thank the local fire departments who responded to the call so quickly and professionally, preventing the fire from spreading, and to the town of Gypsum, neighbors and the Salvation Army food vendor volunteers that all helped with the situation. We deeply appreciate the selfless service rendered and recognize that many of you are volunteers and that all of you sacrificed a precious Saturday during the busy Christmas season,” said Dean Rostrom, Chairman of Eagle Valley Clean Energy.

Eagle Valley Clean Energy’s 10-megawatt biomass facility generates electricity from beetle-killed trees. The power generated from the facility helps provide energy to about 55,000 customers in Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield, Gunnison and Mesa counties.

According to a report from Michele A Ziccardi, public information officer from the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, there was fire in both of the plant’s silos and on three different conveyor belts spreading across hundreds of feet and over 80 feet about the ground. Because fire covered such a vast area, and the challenge of reaching the fires, the crews battled for about eight hours working in various teams.The fire crew’s efforts kept the damages to an estimated $200,000 and prevented further fire extension to other parts of the $56 million dollar plant.

The fire was contained and declared out by mid afternoon. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Units from Gypsum Fire Department, Greater Eagle Fire Department, Eagle County Airport Rescue Fire Fighting, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Vail Fire and Emergency Services, Glenwood Springs Fire and Colorado River Fire Authority assisted with the firefighting efforts. Eagle County Paramedics Services, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, Eagle County Emergency Management Director Barry Smith and Vail Public Safety Communication Center also assisted with the incident. The Town of Gypsum Public Works Department, Holy Cross Energy and The Salvation Army provided assistance to the emergency personnel.

Michele Ziccardi, public information officer from the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, contributed to this report.

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