5 trapped in underground pipe, rescuers waiting for fire to go out
GEORGETOWN Colorado– Five people are trapped inside a pipe under a dam on Guanella Pass because of an underground fire at a hydroelectric plant.
Xcel Energy confirms the fire broke out at the Cabin Creek hydroelectric facility, five miles south of Georgetown, around 2 p.m. The fire is about 3,000 feet from the dam structure.
Authorities say they are in contact with the five people who are trapped.
Xcel says the fire broke out in the penstock Tuesday afternoon while the plant was shut down for routine maintenance. A penstock is basically a water pipe. This penstock is used to take water to the turbines.
Xcel says the crew of nine contractors were working inside the pipe, which is 48 inches in diameter, and coating it with an epoxy solution to keep it from corroding. According to Xcel, there was a problem with a piece of equipment and a fire started.
Four members of the crew were below the fire when it started and they were able to escape. Two of them were treated for chemical inhalation.
The other five people were able to climb above the pipe and get above a temporary block that was put there to keep the water from where they were working. Those five people are 2,000 feet underground and 1,000 feet from where the fire began.
They have been breathing clean air since about 45 minutes after the fire started because crews are flushing down fresh air from the top of the pipe at the upper part of the reservoir.
Rescuers are coming from both directions to get to the five contractors. The top crew is expected to rappel down a 55-degree incline to reach the workers.
They are in contact with the contractors through a radio and Xcel says the five are OK as far as they know.
Crews must wait until the fire is completely extinguished before rescuing the contractors. A mine rescue group from Henderson began working on putting the fire out around 5:40 p.m.
Crews from across the Front Range were called to respond to the fire.
The West Metro Fire Department says the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office has asked for help with a Hazmat situation and the Arvada Fire Department says it has also responded.