A $10 million Dominion Virginia Power transformer was one of the casualties of last Thursday's near-hurricane-force winds. But in this case, the switching mechanisms worked, preventing long power outages to customers.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units responded to the transformer fire in the Lorton area at approximately 9:55 p.m., according to Daniel L. Schmidt, public information officer for the department. The facility is located at 8906 Palmer Drive and Ox Road.
"First-arriving units encountered an electrical substation that housed two large transformers containing mineral oil that was fully involved in fire in a remote wooded area about a mile from the Fairfax County Occoquan Water Treatment Plant," Schmidt said. "It took firefighters approximately five hours to bring the fire under control."
Schmidt reported, "The fire continued to flare up throughout the morning on Friday because of high winds and the large presence of mineral oil. Both transformers carried about 19,000 gallons of mineral oil."
The leaking oil, used as a cooling agent, was contained by firefighters and pumped off by an environmental cleanup company, according to the department. Departmental foam units, additional tanker units, and the Hazardous Materials Response Unit were called on to subdue the blaze.
ABOUT 10,000 customers lost power temporarily, according to Fire Department and Virginia Dominion spokespersons. "We were able to resolve the situation by switching procedures. There were no customers without power by mid-Friday morning," David Botkins, Dominion Virginia Power, reported. Power was rerouted, preventing any domino effect, and most customers were back on line shortly after midnight.
"One family from Palmer Drive was temporarily evacuated. Three families were sheltered in place. There were no injuries," according to the Fire and Rescue Department.
Approximately 70 firefighters responded. According to fire investigators, "A broken power pole started a series of electrical faults that included several arcing electrical wires, causing the transformers to malfunction, catch fire, and leak onto the ground."