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Dam expected at full speed by March

Nov. 18 fire injured two men, damaged a generating plant

— The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation continues to investigate a fire last month at Grand Coulee Dam and is working to get the John W. Keys III Pump Generating Plant back up and operating.

Work is under way to return the facility to full operation for the 2014 irrigation season. All six pumping units are expected to be working by March 1.

Grand Coulee resident Daniel McCulloch, 53, received burns in the Nov. 18 fire. He continues treatment at Harborview Medical Center, Seattle.

Another worker, Electric City resident Thomas Leitner, 54, was treated and released that day.

An initial investigation blamed the fire on a failure in the plant’s switch gear. The switch allows the plant to pump water from Lake Roosevelt into Banks Lake for irrigation or use that water to generate electricity.

The plant is in its off season, so was doing neither function, Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Lynne Brougher said. Maintenance on the plant’s nine units was under way.

The pumping plant sustained fire and smoke damage. Overall dam operations were not affected.

The agency’s Serious Incident Review Team is assessing the damage and investigating the fire. Results of their findings are expected in late January.

A cleanup manager has been appointed and an in-house cleanup crew has been in the plant since Dec. 6. Nine temporary employees have been hired to work on the cleanup.

Cleanup will be focused on the floor where the pumps are located and in the plant where Reclamation’s emergency service personnel are housed.

All units in the plant were contaminated to some extent by smoke residue and other potentially hazardous materials.

Repair costs haven’t been determined.

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