A turbine caught fire about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday at the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant in downtown Colorado Springs.

Five or more fire trucks responded, and firefighters extinguished the blaze under Turbine 7. Twenty to 40 people were working nearby when the fire began.

All Colorado Springs Utilities workers were safely evacuated, and no one was injured, said Utilities spokeswoman Natalie Watts.

The cause of the blaze at the city-owned plant was not determined, Watts said, and it won't affect customers.

"Our electric grid is safe," said Aram Benyamin, Utilities CEO. "We have enough resources to cover the loss ... We have done all the emergency measures to make sure that the city has enough supply of electricity, and that everybody is safe."

Benyamin commended the Fire Department for its speedy response of less than five minutes. More than 70 firefighters were at the plant, said Fire Capt. Brian Vaughan. 

"These are giant motors that run on fuel," Vaughan said. "Just think of if a car were to rupture in a garage, that would be probably a big deal. These are giant motors in a giant building. Certainly there are concerns, but we've pre-planned enough to say 'We're not going in' or 'We are going in.'"

The fire was minimal, Utilities spokesman Mark Murphy said.

But it sparked memories nonetheless of the four-alarm fire that ripped through the plant on May 5, 2014, causing major damage to Martin Drake's infrastructure.

That blaze sent a huge plume of black smoke over downtown and prompted the evacuation of 62 employees as voluntary evacuation notices were sent to people within three blocks of the plant. One contract employee was treated for minor injuries, and about 22,000 customers briefly lost power.

The plant didn't become fully operational until 10 months later, after $20 million worth of repairs were made.

Three boilers had been badly damaged after lubricating oil hit hot steam pipes, and the free-flowing oil continued to feed the blaze, increasing its size and severity, an investigation determined later. 

Multimedia Journalist

Liz is a multimedia journalist with a specific interest in space exploration and environment. She watches way too much Star Trek and is working toward her rescue scuba divers certification. Liz joined the Gazette staff in 2019.

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