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Oil leak causes fire at Drake Power Plant

Cause of Drake Fire Ruled Accidental

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Martin Drake Power Plant fire was an accident.  Investigators found an oil leak that ignited a flash fire.

Fire crews made the discovery late Tuesday, but tell us there are still plenty of questions about how this leak happened in the first place.

In a matter of seconds a flash fire ignited inside the city's largest power plant.

"It was pretty spontaneous. When that oil hit that pipe, that pipe was very hot, hot enough that it caused an ignition. It caused a flash fire," said Colorado Springs Fire Chief, Chris Riley.

He says hundreds of gallons of oil may have spilled out to keep the large fire going.

"There was a lot of oil involved. It could have been up to 1,700 gallons," said Riley.

The origin of the fire was found near a turbine and circuit breaker.

"It took 36 or 40 hours roughly, before we were able to come to the conclusion that the fire was accidental in nature," said Riley.

Now the difficult part of the investigation is beginning.

"It's going to take us awhile to do this, to find out what caused that leak," said Riley.

"We do have regular very aggressive preventive maintenance programs, that we address all aspects of the plant. This is an incredibly well-maintained plant," said Jerry Forte, CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities.

Investigators are working 24/7 to figure out how this leak happened. Meanwhile, CSU is making plans.

"Drake is our base load resource, it supplies about a third of the power on average to Colorado Springs. Anything that we would replace it with in the short term is going to cost more money," said Forte.

Most employees at the power plant have been on paid administrative leave. Many  will report back for work Thursday morning to begin fixing up the plant.

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