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Fire damages power turbine at mill

About 40 workers at the Vaagen Bros. Lumber mill in Colville were sent home Thursday after a fire in the mill’s turbine and electrical equipment disabled operations.

Russ Vaagen, the plant’s vice president, said he expects that workers will return as operations are restored over the next few weeks.

But damage to the company’s co-generation turbine, which sold power to the electrical grid, was so severe that it may not be restored for a year or longer, he said.

The fire broke out about 9 p.m. Wednesday in the portion of the plant that converts bark fuel into steam and electricity.

Two workers were unable to stop the fire. The workers were taken to Providence Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville for treatment of inhalation of carbon monoxide or smoke, Vaagen said.

The Colville Fire Department extinguished the fire in about two hours.

The blaze may have started in an oil circulating pump, Vaagen said, extending into an electrical switch gear that regulates the flow of power to and from the region’s power grid.

The adjacent boiler provides steam power for the turbine generator and for steam used in the lumber mill, Vaagen said.

The turbine produced 4 megawatts of electrical power for the plant and for co-generation. Electrical production was worth $160,000 a month in revenue to the company, Vaagen said.

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