ALICE TOWN, Bimini – Residents and fire services on North Bimini battled a blaze at the Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) Alice Town power plant for nearly seven hours on Monday night, resulting in the destruction of two of the plant’s main engines.
The fire, which erupted around 9 p.m., caused a total blackout on both South and North Bimini.
Residents on the island told The Nassau Guardian that they heard a loud explosion and saw clouds of smoke and flames emanating from the plant.
The small island community quickly sprung into action as almost 100 people, including volunteer firefighters and tourists, joined in to put the fire out.
Authorities said the blaze was extinguished by 3:30 a.m.
BPL CEO Whitney Heastie and Acting COO Ian Pratt were on the ground yesterday to assess the damage.
“There is some damage inside the hall, clearly we can see that,” Heastie said.
“The good news is we have the additional capacity on the island to carry the load that is currently on the island, and so we are just making safety checks to ensure that we can safely connect those customers back.
“We anticipate having everybody reconnected by 1 p.m. today.”
Heastie noted that he does not foresee the need to begin a load shedding schedule on the island as a result of the fire.
“We have the capacity on the island to carry the customer base, so we are comfortable with the capacity we have right now for the existing load that we have on the island,” he said.
However, despite these assurances, The Guardian understands that the power supply in Bimini Bay was still off up to 5 p.m. and load shedding had to commence.
The cause of the fire has yet to be discovered and initial assessments are unable to determine the cost of the damage sustained, Heastie said.
The Alice Town power plant has six engines, four of which are still operational inside the facility, and two of which were destroyed in the fire.
Heastie explained that additional assets were brought to the island ahead of the Memorial Day weekend as a precautionary measure.
“We wanted to make sure that anybody who was on the island was not impacted by a shortfall in generation, so we brought those assets on the island just to cover us through the weekend,” he said.
“We brought in one additional trailer unit, so we have three trailer units now sitting at the plant.”
With the remaining four engines and the three trailer units, Heastie once again insisted that they don’t see a challenge.
“Until we actually get things configured and started up, we won’t know,” he added.
“We are just trying to reconfigure the power grid right now to make sure we can take advantage of the remaining assets that are operational at this time.”
On New Providence, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister offered apologies to the residents of Bimini over the incident.
“Today ought to have been a day of uncompromised celebration,” said Bannister, during a press conference for the transportation of new engines for the Clifton Pier Power Station.
“We are doing something historic that will be celebrated in The Bahamas for many decades.
“However, last night’s fire has put somewhat of a damper on events this morning and, accordingly, I have a responsibility to address that first.
“I apologize to the people of Bimini for the inconveniences suffered during the night. That is our responsibility and I assume responsibility for it.
“The fire will be investigated thoroughly and independently.”
This is not the first time one of BPL’s power plants has caught fire.
The results of a probe into the fires that damaged generators at the Clifton Pier Power Plant last September are still unknown.
Despite continuous questions from the media on the matter, Bannister and BPL executives remain tight-lipped.
The first fire erupted on September 7 around 10:30 p.m. and caused damage to station C, which houses two of the company’s largest generators, prompting BPL to load shed throughout New Providence.
Firefighters responded to three fires at the Clifton plant, in the same areas, just days apart.
The damage also caused a spike in consumer bills as the electricity company continued to grapple with generation issues.
In March, Bannister told reporters that as soon as the government is “able” to, it will release the results of that probe.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications