Electric glitch leads to small fire; another outage hits today

Posted: Monday, July 24, 2000

The power outage that struck Juneau on Sunday set in place a chain of events that led to a minor fire at the Mount Roberts Tram.

When a 138,000-volt switch failed in Thane at about 4 p.m., the power feed from the Snettisham hydropower plant was cut off.

It took about a half hour for backup diesel generators to bring electricity back to town, according to Peter Bibb, a spokesman for the Alaska Electric Light and Power Co. After about two hours, Juneau was running on Snettisham electricity again, he said.

At the tram, ``we had a little fire in our backup, auxiliary engine,'' said Bruce Barker, the tram's general manager. The generator, which switches on automatically when a power outage occurs, keeps the tram running and the building at the top of the tram powered during a power failure.

After AEL&P turned Juneau's power back on, it appears the backup generator didn't shut off, Barker said. A worker noticed smoke at the generator, which is contained and separated from the main building, he said.

The fire was put out with a fire extinguisher, he said. Juneau's fire marshal has been asked to try to figure out why the generator burned.

The incident shut the tram down for about 20 minutes, he said, and about 10 tickets were refunded. The damage to the generator was about $10,000, Barker said.

Until the generator is fixed, the tram will rely on another generator as a backup, he said. That generator powers the tram, and will prevent anyone from getting stranded off the ground, Barker said. However, the second backup won't function to keep operations in the main building going.

Another power outage hit part of town today.

For a half hour this morning, about 1,000 homes out Glacier Highway lost power, Bibb of AEL&P said.

``We had a power outage at Auke Bay (and) north,'' he said. An insulator on an overhead power line failed and then broke.

``It caused the power line to drop and come in contact with the power pole, Bibb said. ``That's a wooden structure, and so it caught on fire.''

Power was turned off at 10:22 a.m., he said, so the fire could be put out. A half hour later, the electricity was flowing again.

``An unusual occurrence, again,'' Bibb said.

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