A 41-year-old Silver Bay man remains hospitalized at Miller Dwan Medical Center in Duluth after being injured in an explosion Monday morning at Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor power plant.
As of Monday night, one of the two generation units continued to generate electricity. Minnesota Power spokeswoman Amy Rutledge said the accident is not expected to affect customers. That plant had been evacuated temporarily during the fire. There was no damage estimate available.
According to company officials, 11-year-employee Joe Fredrickson was in critical condition Monday night, but he was described as conscious and communicative. The injured fuels technician was taken by ambulance to Cook County North Shore Hospital by ambulance and then transferred to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center before moving to Miler Dwan.
Rutledge said the coal bunker was being filled with coal when the explosion occurred. The bunker is where coal is stored before it is burned in steam generators to generate electricity.
She said the utility is investigating the cause of the blast.
Frederickson was the only person in the coal bunker room when the explosion occurred shortly after 9 AM. Schroeder Fire Chief Phil Bonin said there appeared to be a coal-dust explosion that caused several spot fires in the plant. Bonin said the cause of the blast wasn’t clear.
Tofte Fire Department personnel reported the initial fire was under control about 30 minutes after it started.
The Lutsen Fire Department was called out at 1:30 on Monday afternoon to join two other Cook County fire departments in fighting flames that rekindled at the plant shortly after noon. The Lutsen department was also asked to bring thermal imaging equipment to the scene.
Fire departments from Schroeder and Tofte, and, the Cook County Ambulance had been called back to the plant about 12:35 PM. The fire departments and ambulance were summoned after flames rekindled on the roof of the power plant in the wake of a morning explosion and fire..
Ambulances and fire departments from the West End were dispatched to the scene after the initial explosion and the Minnesota State Patrol was called in for traffic control.
The Duluth News Tribune says a similar explosion and fire occurred at the plant in August, 2002.