MILLSVILLE – Trenton resident Doug Stewart knew something was wrong early this morning when he pointed his binoculars towards his sister’s house in Millsville and saw nothing but black smoke.
Stewart, who lives near the Trenton Airport, said he is often bird watching and looking at the windmills on Fitzpatrick Mountain, but instead of spotting blades and towers 32 kilometres away, all he saw was smoke.
“I am always looking that way and it didn’t look too bright this morning,” he said. “It was quite black.”
Stewart called the RCMP who told him he was the second person to report the smoke. He also called his sister Donna Sutherland, who lives two kilometres away from the windmills, to see what was happening.
“I didn’t notice it at first,” she said. “There is a spruce tree in the way so I had to go outside and take a look. Once I walked outside, I saw the smoke.”
Central West River resident Kevin Hawkes said he knew there was a problem when he saw black smoke while driving home from work early yesterday morning.
“I went home and grabbed my camera but it was about 15 or 20 minutes before I got there,” he said. “By then it was pretty much out.”
Scotsburn Fire Department arrived on the scene at Tower Road in Millsville about 7:30 p.m. yesterday after someone working at the site reported smoke coming from the motor compartment of the wind turbine.
The turbines are owned by Shear Wind Inc. and were constructed on Fitzpatrick Mountain about four years ago.
Ian Tillard, chief operating officer for Shear Wind, said it took about an hour for the fire to burn itself out. In such cases, he said, the turbines are designed to stop and de-energize so there is little the fire department needs to do other than keep the area clear underneath it.
Tillard said the Scotsburn Department responded in record time and provided the support the company needed, but he acknowledged the company will have to work with local firefighters in the future about responding to such situations.
“We have done a lot of work with fire departments near the Glen Dhu site and it’s apparent we need to do that with the Scotsburn Fire Department,” he said. “Fires like this are extremely rare on these units, but there are concerns in the summer with forest fires and public safety.”
Tillard said the area around the damaged windmill has been cordoned off and the local snowmobile club has been notified since there are some trails on the site.
He suspects the fire was electrical in nature, but won’t know the exact cause until it is investigated by the company. He said the components damaged by the early morning fire will be replaced.
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