Somerset fire

Fire crews from multiple companies around Niagara County and Orleans County stand-by to lend aid to put out a fire at the former Somerset Coal Power Plant. The site was being demolished to make way for a data center that will mine bitcoin, when one of the large tanks formerly used in the power plant caught fire Friday morning. The fire was under control by 11:30 a.m. after the Barker Fire Department responded quickly to it at 9:22 a.m. and other fire companies were called in. (Photograph by Benjamin Joe)

A fire broke out in the former Somerset coal plant at approximately 9:22 a.m. Friday, while crews were demolishing one of the tanks that were previously used in its power generation.

“Inside the building are these giant tanks that were used to process multiple chemicals,” Niagara County Fire Coordinator Jonathan Schultz explained. “During the demolition process they unfortunately caught fire.”

Site Project Manger at Heorot Power Management, John Mason, said the tanks were no longer operational and were empty.

According to a press release from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, demolition crews were cutting a hole into the building to anchor the tank, or module, and tear it down. While cutting, the rubber liner on the interior of the building ignited.

“The fire spread to the wood platform and plastic chevrons inside the building, creating a large amount of black smoke,” read the release.

Schultz said members of the Barker Fire Department were very quick in getting control of the fire, and 12 fire companies, including the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, were called onto the scene, seven from Niagara County and four from Orleans County.

Responding sheriff’s deputies and firefighters said they saw, “black smoke and visible flames,” coming from where the tanks were stored.

After an hour and a half, the fire was under control and firefighters were putting out “hot spots.”

“There’s no rush to it,” Schultz said of the continuing operation. “We just want to make sure everything is safe for demolition crews working back there, the firefighters, everyone else. We just want to make sure it’s safe. It’s a tough operation.”

One firefighter is reported to have been injured and was treated at a nearby hospital, said the release.

Demolition of the site started about a year ago and is ongoing for at least another year, Mason said.

The former power plant is being torn down to make way for a data center that would mine bitcoin.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by Niagara County Origin and Cause.

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