Coal-fired generation unit that produces electricity caught fire.
EAST CHINA TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Fire crews worked overnight to extinguish a blaze at a power plant along the St. Clair River in Michigan that sent smoke into the air that was visible for miles, authorities said.
There were no reports of injuries in the Aug. 11 fire, which was reported about 6:30 p.m. at the DTE Energy Co.’s St. Clair Power Plant in East China Township. A coal-fired generation unit that produces electricity inside the facility caught fire, the utility said in a statement.
“Employees were evacuated immediately and safely,” Detroit-based DTE Energy said. “At this time, there are no known injuries at the facility. DTE successfully invoked its emergency plant procedures and shut down all other units at the site.”
Firefighters from across St. Clair County were called to the plant about 40 miles northeast of Detroit as thick, billowing black and grey smoke rose from the burning structure.
Officials said at a news conference that the fire was about 80% under control. The St. Clair Fire Department said Friday morning that crews went into the building overnight to look for hot spots and remained at the plant, located along the US border with Canada.
DTE spokesman Pete Ternes said in an email early Friday that the utility plans a statement with an update later in the morning.
No residential evacuations were immediately ordered, but deputy county emergency manager Ken Cummings told the Times-Herald of Port Huron a plan was in place if they became necessary.
Roads in the area were closed and traffic was detoured away from the plant.
DTE President Trevor Lauer said the plant is offline but that isn’t expected to affect services.
A noise from the plant caught Mary Buslepp’s attention shortly before she noticed the smoke. Buslepp has lived near the facility about a dozen years.
“They blow the stacks occasionally, but this was unusually loud,” she told the Times-Herald.
The plant has been in service since 1953 and employs 280 workers, according to the newspaper.
DTE Energy said in June that coal-fired units at the plant are among eight at three of its facilities that are slated to be shut down within the next seven years.
The units in East China Township, the River Rouge facility in the Detroit area and the Trenton facility in suburban Detroit are to be retired between 2020 and 2023, DTE Energy said.