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Update at 4:35 p.m.:  A minimal fire crew is still on scene at We Energies following an explosion inside one of the coal silos that happened at 1:36 p.m. at the We Energies Oak Creek power plant, said Barry McNulty.

“The crew is hosing down some of the areas where hot spots might remain,” McNulty said. “The mutual aid fire departments have left the site.”

The explosion and fire happened inside a coal silo that feeds into unit two of the new expansion units on the north side of the campus. The coal silos house the coal dust that is fed into the burner. The silos have vents around them so if the temperatures get too hot, the vents blast open to blow off the fire and smoke.

“They (the vents) operated just as designed,” McNulty said.

Coal dust is volatile and can self-combust. The cause of the fire and the extent of the damage is not known at this time.

Original story: Reports of light smoke and a structure fire have been reported at about 2:00 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25 at We Energies’ Oak Creek Power Plant, 11080 S. Chicago Rd.

Rescue personnel from the Caledonia Fire Department along with fire and rescue personnel from Oak Creek and South Milwaukee fire departments are on scene.

Barry McNulty, spokesperson for We Energies, said there is limited information at this time, but said it is fairly typical to have fire departments from multiple jurisdictions on scene because the power plant has a mutual aid arrangement with multiple jurisdictions.

“I don’t know if it’s still active or if something is still burning,” McNulty said. “I also can’t confirm whether the work has been completed or if it’s still active. But I do know that everyone was evacuated and accounted for. There  are no injuries or service disruption.”

Wally Leininger, Lt. with the Caledonia Fire Department, said an ambulance from the Caledonia Fire Department was sent to the power plant for a report of a structure fire, but that type of response was fairly typical and did not mean there were injuries.

“There’s a report of light smoke inside the structure, but they are trying to find the source… I’m not sure if it’s an explosion or smoke,” Leininger said.

McNulty said he will give more information as soon as he gets confirmation on the incident. Some of the power plant property is located in Caledonia.


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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.