Here's the story so far from the State Urinal-Register:
CWLP fire under control, but damage appears severe
Last Updated 11/10/2007 9:28:33 PM
and CHRIS WETTERICH
An explosion in part of City Water, Light and Power's Dallman generating station this evening caused major damage to the city's power generating complex.
The explosion occurred about 6:50 p.m. No one was injured.
The city's biggest single electrical generator, the Dallman 3 plant, was still operating, and the city was obtaining power from the national electric grid. As a result, aside from brief and isolated power outages early in the evening, officials do not expect customers to experience any further power interruptions.
Springfield Fire Department spokesman Bob Reside said the explosion -- apparently one large explosion, followed by a series of about a dozen smaller ones -- took place in the power plant complex's main building, a four-story structure off Stevenson Drive near Dirksen Parkway and Interstate 55-72.
A large section of an exterior brick wall on the building's fourth floor collapsed into the interior of the building during the fire, Reside said.
"This just shows how dangerous this has gotten because of damage to the structure," Reside said. "We have to expect further collapse."
The fire was fueled by oil leaking from damaged and blazing power transformers and boosted by a steady wind. However, firefighters were reporting about 9:30 p.m. that the oil flow was being cut off and the situation was gradually being brought under control.
Foam was being used to battle the oil fires, not only because water is ineffective against an oil fire but also to avoid polluting nearby Lake Springfield with oil, Reside said.
The cause of the explosion was still undetermined as of 9:30 p.m., with the main suspects apparently being a transformer malfunction or an explosion of flammable coal dust. In any case, at least two transformers caught fire.
"Transformers contain oil and it is burning and has spilled out of the transformers," Reside said about 8:30 p.m.
An unknown number of employees were inside the plant when the explosions occurred, but all evacuated safely.
There was no danger to the public from chemical fumes, and the fire posed no threat to nearby businesses or residences, Reside said. Firefighters kept an eye on several nearby hydrogen tanks, however.
"We have nozzles fixed on them so they don't explode," he said.
Witnesses reported one large explosion, followed by 10 to 15 smaller ones.
Micki Dickerson, who was at Capital City Shopping Center, said the first explosion "sounded like the loudest thunder you ever heard, it shook the windows and the building.
"The first explosion was real loud and the second almost as loud. We went outside, and then it sounded like gunfire --- boom, boom, boom. Then it stopped for a second and started right back up."
The explosion was followed by a steam release from the power plant.
“Now, it sounds like you're standing too close to a jet," she said shortly after the blast. "It's still going on. You can't hear the sirens for the sounds of the power plant."
A resident of South 13th Street e-mailed The State Journal-Register to say "the entire back half of my house vibrated at ten till 7. It felt like something hit the house.
"Then I heard a long series of what sounded like gun shots. At least a minute or so in length. I thought a house in my neighborhood was on fire or had been damaged."
She likewise reported a sound like "an airplane engine" as steam was released from the plant.
Several suburban fire departments, including Rochester and Sherman, were called to staff Springfield fire stations while city firefighters respond to the CWLP incident. Sherman also sent an aerial truck to the power plant after a city truck experienced mechanical problems.
Police detoured motorists away from the area of Dirksen Parkway, Taylor Avenue and Stevenson Drive, and interstate off-ramps were closed near CWLP. However, streets started to be reopened before about 8 p.m.