Thursday, Jan 23, 2020
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No additional load shedding planned after third fire at BPL

Firefighters rushed to Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) Clifton Pier Power Station yesterday morning for the third time in four days as reports of another blaze reached Fire Services’ office, according to Superintendent Walter Evans, officer in charge of Fire Services.

Evans, who spoke to the media outside the plant on the western tip of the island, said the latest fire began in the general vicinity of the others around 9 a.m.

He said investigators were still determining the cause of the three fires, but arson was not suspected.

He advised that a team of firefighters will be assigned to monitor the facility in intervals to act as a direct response in the event of any further incidents.

The first fire erupted around 10:30 p.m. on Friday night.

Firefighters responded to reports of a second fire on Sunday around 10 p.m.

“All of these fires were pretty much confined to the basement area where there is a gridiron flooring and there is probably a drop – probably about 30 feet in depth – and there were some items which were stored below,” he said.

“We’ve had several fires which took place over the last couple of days.

“They were not just in one particular area and so, we are investigating now to determine what would have been the cause of these three matters, why these incidents [have] taken place, and the frequency of them.”

BPL said in a statement yesterday that the fires since Friday were minor and no additional damage was caused as a result.

The power company also said it does not see “any further impacts in the load shedding schedule at this present time”, though that schedule has not made public.

The Nassau Guardian understands BPL CEO Whitney Heastie has direct oversight of the Clifton Pier power plant.

Following the first blaze, Heastie acknowledged during a press conference on Saturday that BPL will be challenged this week and load shedding would be necessary until the power company had adequate capacity to offset demand.

The fire, at one of the power plant’s major diesel engine decks, reportedly began on Friday night when a technician was attempting to make an adjustment while bringing a generator that had been out of service back online.

The fire spread from the engine deck down to a basement and throughout the station.

That generator was reportedly destroyed.

The fire led to a prolonged blackout in western New Providence that lasted until around 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

Later that day, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard labeled it a “crisis”.

When contacted yesterday, Maynard said his members will work around the clock as necessary to ensure all is done to avert what he considers crisis mode.

“We are going to do whatever it takes to keep this island up and running,” he said.

“It’s as simple as that. No ifs, no ands and no buts.”

“I went to Clifton Pier yesterday. I talked to the workers.

“We know the situation we are in and we are going to work feverishly to get it done.

“Whatever it takes, we are going to do it.”

When asked whether the loss of several hundred workers who accepted BPL’s voluntary separation packages has posed a challenge for the power company, Maynard said he was always concerned about the collective loss of experience those workers represented.

He recommended that the board work with the union to develop a list of people who need to be brought back on.

When asked whether the fires may have been averted with additional manpower, Maynard said he did not wish to speculate.

Attempts to contact Heastie and Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister were unsuccessful.

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