Labrador town's backup mobile generators catch fire for 2nd time
Charlottetown's volunteer fire chief is concerned about the safety of coastal Labrador town after another unit at its backup mobile power source caught fire this week.
Boyce Turnbull and 13 members of his volunteer fire crew were called early Wednesday morning to a fire at the mobile power unit in Charlottetown, 413 kilometres southeast of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
For the second time in less than a year, a unit at the mobile power station was on fire. The group put out the fire in about two hours while dealing with cold temperatures and wind chill at –40 C, Turnbull said. He said fire damaged the pumps, pumping systems and truck.
"I'm concerned about the safety of our residents," Turnbull said.
Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said the cold weather caused the fire. Scott Crosbie, N.L. Hydro's vice-president of operations, said the generator's coolant had gelled because of the cold temperatures and couldn't cool the exhaust. He said the exhaust then overheated, melted wiring and charred air intake filters, but the other two generators were in good shape.
The main Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro diesel plant burned down in 2019. The backup mobile power source of generators in steel containers had one unit catch fire in July, Turnbull said.
"I don't see anything secure, any secure plans of where do we go from here," Turnbull said. "There should be a plant built back to replace the one that burned in 2019."
Crosbie acknowledged it's been "too long" without a new plant yet but said there's a regulatory process that N.L. Hydro must follow. N.L. Hydro's proposed solution is to have a centralized plant with transmission lines, which is working its way through regulatory scrutiny, Crosbie said.
Whether a new diesel plant is built in the community or a more central one is built with transmission lines, Crosbie said, either option is about three years away from completion.
In the meantime, Crosbie said they've increased the ventilation gap around the units that are there and are committing to having enough units for reliable operations and to have two extra units in case something happens.
However, Crosbie said, until a new long term plant is built, there may be more power outages.
"Because mobiles are just a short-term solution, there will be periodic planned power outages if we have to switch or switch out a breaker or something like that, but they're short term," Crosbie said.