|By Monica Mendoza, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
That AIG Energy and Engineered Risk survey report was written
The AIG report said: "The areas beneath the turbine generator deck of Units Nos. 5, 6, and 7 do not have automatic sprinkler protection as recommend by the (
AIG, the company that holds
But the cost of installing the system was greater than the risk, he said.
Drake plant manager
"The evaluation comes down to the trade-off between cost and risk, and decisions have been made in the past that it did not warrant the expense," Luke said.
"Do you have sprinkler system in the house? Why not? If you ask your insurance company, what will they tell you? There are a lot more house fires than power plant fires," Luke said.
An AIG spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Berry said the insurance company makes suggestions to reduce their potential for loss.
"They are an insurance company; they are not experts," he said. "While they may be familiar with the utilities industry, they are not necessarily power plant experts."
AIG never demanded that the sprinkler system be expanded. The company has made no mention of the lack of sprinkler system after the fire, Luke said. The company has paid
"It is something they would like us to do -- they would like the industry to do," Luke said.
Drake power plant's three turbine generators, known as units No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7, were built in 1962, 1967 and 1974. When the
If Drake were built today, it would be required to have a sprinkler system, Cooper said.
"However, since it was built many years ago, we can't turn around and say, you know what you have to install sprinkler system because code now requires it -- even in this kind of thing," Cooper said.
The fire marshal typically does not recommend the installation of fire suppression equipment, Cooper said, especially when it is not required in the city code.
In 1991, however, the fire marshal initiated a change in the city's code for retirement and nursing homes after 10 people died in a fire inside one of the facilities. The fire marshal recommended then that all boarding homes, retirement centers and nursing homes be retrofitted with sprinklers, regardless of the year built. At the time, it affected nearly 40 facilities.
But the Drake fire does not warrant a change in the code, Cooper said.
"It was an isolated situation. It's one facility within the city," he said.
The fire at Drake was caused by human error, the fire marshal's report says.
A longtime Utilities mechanic changed the wrong filter on a turbine oil system and oil squirted out and hit the hot pipes below. The mechanic had received the go-ahead to change a filter in unit No. 5. The pressure, or shut-off valves, in the line had been closed off.
But the mechanic changed the wrong filter -- one where the valves had not been closed. The filter cracked, and oil squirted out 3 feet, hitting the 950-degree hot steam pipes, the fire marshal's report says.
"Yes, if properly designed, the sprinkler system may have made a difference," Cooper said. "It's important to note, a sprinkler system does not prevent the fire. The sprinkler system is designed to control the fire until the firefighters get there to extinguish it."
Most of the damage inside the power plant was to unit No. 5, the oldest of the three turbines. Units 6 and 7 were damaged because they were suddenly shut down. Utilities officials have restarted unit No. 6 and expect to have unit No. 7 running by fall.
"The way you stop the fire is you prevent that mechanic from walking up and making a human error," Luke said. "It has nothing to do with having a sprinkler or not having a sprinkler."
"It's also concerning to me that the person who was putting in the filters was working by himself when they knew there was a potential problem," King said.
King said the
Luke, and others at Utilities, are not convinced that an expansion of the sprinkler system inside the coal-fired plant would have made a difference in the
"It is not necessarily standard in the industry," Luke said. "There are other issues with adding the sprinklers. When they go off, what do you do with all the water?"
"We are doing Monday morning quarterbacking," Knight said. "But once there has been a major thing like this, it is within our purview to question Jerry (Forte, Utilities CEO) on what he is doing to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Expanding the sprinkler system to meet AIG's recommendation is not out of the question, Luke said. The staff and consulting firms still are evaluating the fire. Utilities may also consider foam or other fire suppression devices.
"Undoubtedly, we will have a discussion with our insurance company," Luke said.
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