Hoover Dam Explosion Fire Successfully Contained, Source Identified

by Amy Myers

After a transformer caught fire at Nevada’s Hoover Dam on July 19, officials worked quickly to contain the flames and pinpoint the cause of the near disaster.

The flames began at 10 a.m. local time on Tuesday at the dam’s A5 transformer. Within a half hour, the fire brigade managed to quell the flames and gain back control of the situation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the responding fire brigade extinguished the fire without injury or interruption. This made the incident a success story for all involved. In fact, the Boulder City Fire Department also responded to the call. However, by the time the firefighters reached the site, the fire was out.

“There are no injuries to visitors or employees. There is no risk to the power grid and power is still being generated from the powerhouse,” the statement said.

The Hoover Dam is the largest in the U.S. and is the source of the 2,080-megawatt hydroelectric plant. This plant generates enough power for 1.3 million households. Completed in 1936, the dam sits on the Colorado River at the Nevada-Arizona border. It also creates the boundary for Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. Like the hydroelectric plant, the lake is crucial to surrounding communities, providing a water supply for 25 million households, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas.

Needless to say, it was paramount that crews stopped the flames as soon as they started.

Video of Hoover Dam Explosion Surfaces

While news broke of the alarming yet thankfully short fire, so, too did a video that a tourist caught of the accident. In it, the clip showed a small explosion erupting from the base of the dam, quickly causing smoke and flames to follow.

From above, the recording tourist observed the plumes of black smoke rising above the plant, the red glow underneath quickly growing larger. Thankfully, she was at a safe distance away from the fire and was in no danger at the viewing ledge.

While officials identified that the fire was the result of a blown transformer, they are still investigating what caused this to happen. According to Reuters, water levels in Lake Mead have been historically low as a result of the drought that the surrounding area had been experiencing. That paired with the extreme summertime heat may have posed an additional problem for the dam and hydroelectric plant.

“We’re getting those years that are at the extreme ends of the bell curve,” Michael Bernardo, river operations manager at the US Bureau of Reclamation, told The Guardian last July. “We’ve seen extremes we haven’t seen before, we now have scenarios that are very, very dry.”

As more details become available, Outsider will keep you updated on the condition of the Hoover Dam.