Transformer failure sparks fire, outage in Ephrata

MOSES LAKE — A transformer failure in Ephrata plunged a portion of Grant County into darkness Wednesday evening and sparked a fire that burned down a Grant County Public Utility District (PUD) maintenance building.

“A facility shop adjacent to the substation caught fire, and it was pretty substantial, either a partial or total loss,” said Grant PUD Public Affairs Managers Thomas Stredwick.

According to Stredwick, the power outage began about 7 p.m. Wednesday when a transformer failed and arced, lighting up the night sky in Ephrata and setting fire to the maintenance building.

About 8,000 customers total were affected, though service to Soap Lake and Quincy was restored in “short order,” about 45-60 minutes after the failure, Stredwick said.

However, power was not restored to the majority of Ephrata until about 2:30 a.m. Thursday, though Stredwick said Grant PUD was rebuilding sections of the distribution grid in Ephrata and that some neighborhoods — Oasis Park, Swanson Addition — would likely remain without power until mid-Thursday.

“We don’t know why the transformer failed,” Stredwick said.

Ephrata City Administrator Wes Crago said the outage forced city officials to monitor some city wells by hand and use emergency back-up generators to keep sewage lift stations — giant septic tanks that collect neighborhood sewage and then pump it to the water treatment plant — operating.

“And the sewer plant had some issues with pumps once the power came back on,” he said. “It was all hands on deck from 7 p.m. to about 11 p.m.”

Crago said that despite the outage, there were no problems related to the melting snow and the rainfall.

No one was injured in the fire, Stredwick said. He also thanked both the Ephrata Fire Department for its quick reaction to the fire and the PUD customers for their “patience and kindness” as power is completely restored.

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