Investigators search for cause of UMPI's turbine fire

(WAGM)
Published: Apr. 6, 2018 at 6:05 PM EDT
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The site is secure around the wind turbine that caught fire last Sunday night on the University of Maine Presque Isle campus.

According to University President Ray Rice, safety was their number one priority.

The generator in the wind turbine caught fire around 10:45 Sunday night.

Rice says that produced an electrical surge which caused a good portion of the University to lose power.

The Presque Isle Fire Department responded to the fire. According to Fire Chief Darrell White, with this type of fire, there is very little that can be done other than secure the scene and wait.

"For us, I guess we treat it the same as we would a utility pole," said White. " It's an electrical system, so unless we can know that there's no electrical charge or current or supply within that system, putting water on it is probably not a good choice. The other thing is, those units are just a whole lot of plastic and poly and electric wire, it's just a big generator really. So there really isn't, even if you could reach it, a whole lot you're going to do."

On Wednesday, a team of specialists visited the wind turbine and launched an investigation into what happened.

"They spent about three hours at the site, making sure that it was safe to climb all the way up," said UMPI President Ray Rice. "Then they followed all of their very specific procedures to ensure the safety of all of the equipment that's on top of the turbine, including ensuring that the blades and the generator and any of the other equipment up there is safely secured."

Rice says he expects these specialists will provide some answers within the next few weeks.

"We're hopeful that we'll get a formal investigation from them in regards to what caused the incident," said UMPI President Ray Rice. "And we're are hopeful of getting their recommendations for the future of the turbine itself."

Rice says because of the damage, there is no guarantee that a cause of the fire will be found. He says plenty of photographs were taken and the team climbed the site to gather as much evidence as possible.