Man remains hospitalized after Grand Coulee fire

— A worker remains hospitalized after being critically injured in a fire that damaged the John W. Keys III Pump Generating Plant at Grand Coulee Dam.

Grand Coulee resident Daniel McCulloch, 53, was listed in serious condition Monday in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the hospital said.

McCulloch, who has worked at the dam since 2008, received burns in the Nov. 18 fire.

Another worker, Electric City resident Thomas Leitner, 54, was treated at Coulee Medical Center and released the day of the fire, Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Lynne Brougher said.

The fire apparently was caused by a switch gear failure in the plant. The agency’s Denver office is conducting an investigation.

Brougher said the plant pumps water from Lake Roosevelt into Banks Lake for irrigation, but can switch its purpose to generate electricity, too.

The plant is in its off season, so was doing neither function. Maintenance on nine of the plant’s units was under way.

The pumping plant sustained fire and smoke damage. Overall dam operations were not affected.

Dam officials are awaiting the results of tests to make sure the plant is free of toxic and chemical residue.

The plant, just off state Highway 155 on the west side of the Columbia River, was evacuated during the fire.

Last week’s fire is the third fire and electrical damage incident at the dam in the past year.

In October, concrete was knocked off the dam’s left powerhouse when it was hit by electrically charged water. In March, an electrical fault and breaker failure caused a fire and explosion in the right powerhouse.

No one was injured in those incidents.

“We have no conclusions of why” there’s been a rash of incidents Brougher said.

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