Crews restore power following incident at substation

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A circuit breaker failure at a Rocky Mountain Power substation near 1100 East and 3900 South caused a fire and knocked out power to about 24,000 customers Saturday.

It happened around 1:12 p.m. Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Jeff Hymas said after a few hours, power had been restored to all but 6,700 of the homes and businesses. As of 6 p.m. power to all of them had been restored. The outage affected parts of Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, Holladay, Murray, Summit Park and Park City.

Hymas said a circuit breaker at the Cottonwood substation failed. The casing on the circuit breaker split open, causing mineral oil to spray out and catch on fire.

He said there was a loud noise when the circuit breaker failed. He said the noise, combined with the fire, apparently caused some people who witnessed the incident to believe that a transformer had exploded. But Hymas said that wasn't the case. The circuit breaker protects the transformer, and it was the circuit breaker failure that resulted in the fire and the power outage.

Unified Fire Authority Capt. Clint Smith said a fireball engulfed the substation. Firefighters doused it with a dry chemical mix.

Many people who live nearby say they felt everything shake. At first they didn't know what had happened.

Kimberly McAllister said, "We felt this big boom and the apartment just shook."

Kathleen Trujillo said, "My pictures on my wall moved and my windows shook. My whole apartment building shook."

Russ McAllister said, "I grabbed my daughter and told her to get inside because I saw a big old mushroom cloud just come up and just start coming down like they showed you in school."

"I thought it was probably a terrorist attack, or somebody blowing up a building," he added.

The incident knocked out power to about 24,000 customers at first.

Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson Dave Eskelsen said, "What they (crews) need to do is change the circuitry in the substation route around the damaged piece of equipment, and then they'll be able to get everybody restored."

Capt. Smith said there is absolutely no health danger to the public from the fire.

St. Mark's Hospital lost electricity, but it used a back-up generator.


Copyright 2008 Bonneville International Corporation. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed. AP contributed to this report.

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