October 11, 2011
Norfolk Fire & Rescue has a plan in case a wind turbine catches fire, one that does not involve extinguishing the flames.
Rather, the plan is to move in, establish a perimeter and allow the fire to burn itself out.
At Norfolk council Tuesday night, Chief Terry Dicks said there is little anyone can do once a wind turbine catches fire. Most are at least 100 metres off the ground -- too high for conventional equipment to be of any use.
What's more, turbine fires are dangerous. Turbine blades continue to spin until the generating unit is totally burned out. As well, debris falling from the burn zone can travel a long distance before it hits the ground. Towers have been known to collapse, crushing firefighting apparatus in their path.
"That thing up top is as big as a bus," Dicks said. "We don't want to get anywhere near it."
The causes of turbine fires are varied. Lightning is a common cause, as are short circuits and gear box oil failures.
There is a surprising amount of combustible material on top of these towers.
Each blade is made from balsa wood wrapped in fibreglass. With each blade weighing nearly six tonnes, no one wants to be in the vicinity when they fall away from the top.
"It's definitely a high hazard zone," said John Verboom, a community safety officer with Norfolk Fire & Rescue. "They recommend that we don't get within half a kilometre of them."
A total of 48 turbines are located within the Erie Shores Wind Farm in southwest Norfolk. Capital Power Corporation has announced plans to build 13 more in Norfolk in the Nanticoke Industrial Park.