Crews extinguish fire at DTE Energy power plant; no injuries

St. Clair power plant

EAST CHINA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Fire crews on Friday extinguished a blaze at a power plant along the St. Clair River in Michigan that broke out a day earlier and sent smoke into the air that was visible for miles, officials said.

There were no injuries in the fire, which was reported about 6:30 p.m. Thursday 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.

"DTE teams successfully invoked emergency procedures and shut down all generating units at the site while working with first responders to successfully control the situation," Detroit-based DTE said in a statement Friday.

Firefighters from across St. Clair County were called to the plant about 40 miles northeast of Detroit as thick, billowing black and gray smoke rose from the burning structure. Employees were safely evacuated.

Crews worked through the night and the fire was out Friday morning, DTE said. 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 U.S. border with Canada.

The utility said the plant is closed and there was no estimate on when it might reopen, but customers won't see any effects on electrical service. Air quality readings were "well within normal limits outside the facility perimeter," DTE said.

Roads in the area were closed and traffic was detoured away from the plant.

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 of Port Huron.

The plant has been in service since 1953 and the utility said the facility has 294 employees overall. They'll be re-assigned to other DTE facilities for now.

DTE 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.

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