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Fire consumes power plant in Ofu — there was a lack of fire equipment

Fire at new micro grid power plant in Ofu, Manu’a

Ofu, MANUA — Residents of Ofu, Manu’a received quite the scare this past Friday afternoon, when a fire broke out at the new micro grid power plant there, specifically the solar battery storage area.

Rep. Tiaoalii Fauagiga Sai told Samoa News that the fire started around 1p.m. — the same time the power in the area went off. “I think the power outage may have been triggered by the fire,” he said, adding that there was much panic — and frustration because the plant is situated only several feet away from the transformer, as well as the ASG gas station. “Had the fire spread, it would have been a major disaster.”

According to Tiaoalii, concerns mounted when they called for a fire truck and were told that there was none on the island, as it had been shipped back to Tutuila.“This is a big problem, and I want to know how the American Samoa Government is going to address this issue,” Tiaoalii said over a telephone interview from Ofu yesterday morning.

According to him, when they arrived at the scene, the plant operator was trying frantically to control the fire. He said the structure is made of steel, and the fire was so hot, that the building looked swollen, “as if it was ready to explode.”

He said they tried their best to contain the fire, by blocking off any oxygen flow coming in through the windows and doors.

Tiaoalii said the ASPA office in Ofu does not have the equipment to handle an incident like this, although there is a fire hydrant within the vicinity; however, it could not be used because they couldn’t find a hose in the right size to attach to it.

“The search for a remedy extended out to residents, and a Public Works employee was able to get a power washer which was used to put out the fire on one side of the building, while a regular water hose was used to fight the fire on the opposite side,” Tiaoalii recalled.

He said he was of the belief that there were sensors in the building that would go off if there were any malfunctions in the system but apparently, he was wrong.

“We were able to contain the fire about 4 hours later, around 5 p.m.,” he said, adding that he made contact with a staffer from the Governor’s Office around 7p.m. that same night, to relay what happened.

For now, he said, residents are dependent solely on a diesel power generator, but his concern is that the diesel will run out after this week. “We have about 35 drums and will need a supply of diesel within the next few days. We have been told that arrangements are being made to have some diesel shipped over,” he said.

Other concerns voiced by the Ofu lawmaker include the lack of assistance from the Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) which is supposed to have a fire truck on hand. He said he was told that the fire truck had been transported back to Tutuila sometime ago.

“We are very lucky that nobody was seriously hurt,” Tiaoalii said. “There should be equipment readily accessible and available in Manu’a in order to respond to incidents like this.”

Tiaoalii says he plans to address the issue when the Fono reconvenes.

Samoa News has been unable to confirm what caused the fire.