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Inspectors Uncovered Potential Issue Days Before Madison Power Station Fires

American Transmission Co. Statement Says Cause Of Blount Street Fire Still Undetermined

Fire at Madison Gas and Electric
Thick, black smoke blanketed Madison’s east side after an explosion at Madison Gas and Electric at about 7:40 a.m. Friday, July 19, 2019. Jenny Peek/WPR

Inspectors uncovered a potential problem at a Madison power substation just days before fires broke out and caused power outages for more than 13,000 customers last Friday.

A statement posted Monday to the website of the American Transmission Co. said inspectors “identified one component within the substation that we felt required additional review, and we made plans to follow up on it this week.”

The company didn’t provide specific information on the component identified, nor what about it required additional review. Its statement said the specific cause of the fires remains unknown and that while the component is one part of the investigation, “we do not want to draw any conclusions until we review all possibilities.”

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Investigators said they don’t believe summer heat was a factor.

No one was injured in the two substation fires on Friday morning in Madison, but outages forced closures and snarled traffic for much of the day. The Blount Street substation contains equipment from both ATC and Madison Gas and Electric. MGE officials on Monday said the fire started in the ATC portion of the station.

An explosion and fire around 7:40 a.m. Friday sent a plume of thick, black smoke rising over the city’s east side. A second fire Friday morning at the East Campus substation near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus also sent a cloud of black smoke into the air and caused police to evacuate Ogg and Smith halls and the UW Safety Building.

The Blount Street fire was extinguished by 9 a.m.

In its Monday statement, ATC said over the weekend insulating fluid had been removed from the damaged transformer, and that cleanup efforts inside the substation are ongoing.

The company said it hopes to have identified the fire’s cause by the end of the month.

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