South Kitsap Fire and Rescue crews spent about five hours Monday, Sept. 9, extinguishing a fire at the West Sound Utilities Districtâ€™s sewer treatment plant. No injuries were reported.
The fire, which happened after 10 a.m., was caused by a spark from an acetylene torch that a maintenance crew was using while servicing one of two digesters at the plant near the intersection of Beach Drive and Olney Road. The digesters break down solid water sludge into biosolids, methane gas and water.
Randy Screws, acting plant manager, said the maintenance crew used acetylene torches to remove and replace defective metal in the 36-foot-tall tank. He noted all safety precautions and equipment was in place in case of a fire.
SKFR responded to the scene about 10:26 a.m. after heavy white smoke was reported coming from the plant.
Olney Road was blocked off for several hours as firefighters battled the fire and Port Orchard police evacuated several homes near the treatment plant as a precaution.
Battalion Chief Ron Powers said because of the unknown type of smoke produced, fire crews were cautious in their approach of mitigating the hazard. Emergency personnel consulted a Department of Transportation response book, along with emergency assistance from CHEMTREC.
Powers said firefighters were sent inside the tank to extinguish the fire using a combination of water and foam.
â€œThis significantly reduced the white smoke, but did not eliminate it,â€ Powers said.
With directions from West Sound Utilities District on-site staff, firefighters â€” in full protective equipment â€” reinstalled the tankâ€™s drain plug which had been removed by the maintenance crew.
SKFR, using a ladder truck, refilled the 250,000-gallon tank with water to extinguish the fire. It took about three hours to refill the tank.
Powers said the local water company was advised prior to the start of the operation and offered assistance in turning on additional water pumps to supply the needed water.
â€œCooperation between several agencies was necessary to mitigate the emergency,â€ Powers noted.
Powers said eight units and 20 personnel responded to the incidents. SKFR crews left the scene about 3:30 p.m.
Screws reported a spark from the metal work might have ignited the petroleum-based coating inside the tank.
On Tuesday, General Manager Mike Wilson said there has been no assessment of damage to the digester that is in the process of being renovated.