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Transformer fire causes Hoover Dam explosion, no injuries recorded

Transformer fire causes Hoover Dam explosion, no injuries recorded
Tuesday, near Boulder City, Nevada, firefighters extinguished a fire at Hoover Dam. According to officials, nobody was hurt when a transformer momentarily caught fire. John Locher/AP

Tuesday, a transformer blew at Hoover Dam, one of the greatest hydroelectric facilities in the United States, releasing a massive cloud of black smoke and swiftly extinguished flames.

The explosion near the base of the dam, an engineering marvel on the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada, caused no injuries. According to the Western Area Power Administration, electricity generated from Hoover Dam continued to flow to the 8 million people in Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California that rely on it.

Officials were investigating the source of the incident and assessing the degree of damage to the transformer, one of 15 at the complex that regulate the voltages of the electricity provided to clients.

Regional director of the United States Bureau of Reclamation Jacklynn Gould stated, "There is no concern to the electricity grid."

Gould stated in a statement that the fire began at 10 a.m. and was extinguished within 30 minutes. It caught the attention of tourists who reported hearing an alert and feeling the ground shake beneath them.

William Herro, age 13, was with his parents on a viewing bridge in San Francisco when he witnessed the explosion and heard a "huge boom."

"A massive amount of black smoke has just blasted into the atmosphere. It resembled a mushroom, and suddenly a fire broke out "Herro remarked. "I was genuinely astonished and began filming"

The explosion occurred 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Las Vegas on the apron of a structure containing turbines that is somewhat downstream from the base of the dam. At 726 feet, Hoover Dam is one of the tallest concrete dams in the United States (221 meters). Each of its seventeen generators can power 100,000 households.

The wide crest of the dam, which is a National Historic Landmark and has appeared in films such Transformers and Fools Rush In, is traversed by as many as 20,000 cars per day. The majority of automobiles going between Arizona and Nevada use a bypass bridge that opened in 2010 high above the dam.

The dam, powerhouses, and turbines are owned and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. The power generated on-site is sent to a substation, where it is sold by the Western Area Power Administration.

The Hoover Dam is a baseload source of electricity, meaning it can respond rapidly to the need for increased power on the grid or dial back supplies.

The fire generated an alert at the control center of the Western Area Power Administration in Phoenix. While the loss of a transformer or other equipment on hydroelectric plants can put pressure on a grid, "no one source is essential to the health of the electricity grid," according to spokesperson Lisa Meiman.

The administration sells electricity generated by 57 federal hydroelectric facilities. Meiman stated that the Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam upstream on the Arizona-Utah border are among the greatest.

The diminishing levels of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the two largest man-made reservoirs in the United States that hold water from the Colorado River, have recently posed a danger to hydropower from these dams.

In recent years, federal officials have taken steps to stabilize the lakes in order to protect the dams' ability to generate electricity and maintain water flow to the Western states and Mexico that rely on it. The lakes have reached their lowest levels in decades due to drought and climate change.