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Man injured in electrical accident at dam

 

Firefighters and evacuated employees stay on the outside of the pump generator plant at Grand Coulee Dam following an accident that led to a fire Monday. - Scott Hunter photo

A Bureau of Reclamation employee was critically injured Monday as a fire started at a switch in the John W. Keys III Pump Generating Plant.

Daniel McCulloch, 54, was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with burn injuries. Another employee was treated locally for smoke inhalation.

McCulloch, an operator, has worked for the bureau since 2008. He was listed in serious condition at Harborview's intensive care unit Tuesday, a medical center spokesperson said.

All plant employees were evacuated and acrid smoke rose out of the pump generating plant just before noon Monday as multiple fire trucks were staged outside and firefighters were seen entering the building.

Reclamation's own Grand Coulee Dam fire department immediately responded and fire departments from Grand Coulee and Electric City were also called.

The pump generating plant at Grand Coulee Dam pumps water from Lake Roosevelt into Banks Lake to irrigate the 670,000-acre Columbia Basin Project. The flow can be reversed to generate electricity.

The plant contains six pumps and six pump-generators. At the time of the incident, four pumps and five pump generators were undergoing maintenance. The remaining units in the plant were not pumping water into Banks Lake or generating power, the bureau said.

A bureau press release said the accident is believed to have been caused by a switch gear failure. An investigation was to begin the following day, after airing out the building during the night.

Bureau spokesperson Lynne Brougher said Tuesday morning that samples of air inside the building and residue from surfaces were being tested for hazardous substances.

 

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