Flaming wind turbines would be left to burn

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Times-Reformer
Norfolk Fire & Rescue has a plan in case a wind turbine catches fire, one that does not involve extinguishing the flames. Rather, the plan is to move in, establish a perimeter and allow the fire to burn itself out. At Norfolk council Tuesday night, Chief Terry Dicks said there is little anyone can do once a wind turbine catches fire. Most are at least 100 metres off the ground — too high for conventional equipment to be of any use.

What’s more, turbine fires are dangerous. Turbine blades continue to spin until the generating unit is totally burned out. As well, debris falling from the burn zone can travel a long distance before it hits the ground. Towers have been known to collapse, crushing firefighting apparatus in their path.

“That thing up top is as big as a bus,” Dicks said. “We don’t want to get anywhere near it.”

The causes of turbine fires are varied. Lightning is a common cause, as are short circuits and gear box oil failures.

There is a surprising amount of combustible material on top of these towers.

Each blade is made from balsa wood wrapped in fibreglass. With each blade weighing nearly six tonnes, no one wants to be in the vicinity when they fall away from the top.

“It’s definitely a high hazard zone,” said John Verboom, a community safety officer with Norfolk Fire & Rescue. “They recommend that we don’t get within half a kilometre of them.”

A total of 48 turbines are located within the Erie Shores Wind Farm in southwest Norfolk. Capital Power Corporation has announced plans to build 13 more in Norfolk in the Nanticoke Industrial Park.

24 thoughts on “Flaming wind turbines would be left to burn

  1. “They recommend that we don’t get within half a kilometre of them.”

    No problem ….that gives a 50 m buffer zone between the danger zone and you and your family sleeping in your beds.

    Torontonians get a 50-500km buffer zone from the nearest IWT….but then again…they voted Liberal…..we didn’t.

  2. Not to mention the toxis fallout onto crops….I doubt crop insurance will cover that. Fresh corn and vegetables alright …… Toxic chemicals no extra charge

  3. If a burning turbine being allowed to burn itself out causes damage to someone else’s (a neighbour, abutter, etc.) property whose fire insurance would address the loss?

  4. This plan, by the Norfolk Fire Department, is so ludicrous that I have to walk away from my computer tonight. I have three sons who are firefighters, two city firefighters, one who is a
    forest firefighter with the MNR. This is no plan. This is just plain stupid. Why respond to the
    call. This kind of emergency situation has to be decided, not at the expense of the lives of
    first responders. The onus should be put on the wind company or the land owner who was
    stupid enough to sign a lease to host a wind turbine.
    This is not something I would like to see other local fire departments getting involved in.
    This makes no sense at all. Is there no common sense left in rural Ontario?

    • They must respond to a fire scene and establish a safe zone around the burning turbine. People living nearby may need protection or even rescue. There is nothing they can do to put down the fire.

  5. Barbara,
    I cannot let this go. Our local municipal fire departments cannot respond to something they are not trained for, or have the equipment to deal with. A plan to stand back and watch something burn, or let someone on fire fall out of the top of a turbine? As I said, the onus is on the wind turbine company or the land owner. Why make it easy for them to walk away from a disaster that is becoming more imminent in our rural areas. The onus should not be on the local fire department. These wind turbines are industrial The wind company should supply their own first responders. They and the landowner should be responsible for any loss of life or damage done to the surrounding area. This is something our local municipalities have to look into.

    • You are correct. Local communities are left on the hook. But he same thing happens in cities where this is also left up to the local fire departments. Only a very few large industrial companies have their own fire departments and only need backup. The oil industry is one that has their own fire departments. Local fire departments can’t fight fires that are 30+ stories up

  6. As much as let it burn is the strategy available recognize it can take days to weeks to burn out on its own. Toxic smoke gets sent across the land during that time. Forest fires, lower to the ground send smoke 100 or more km away so how is 500 m enough?

  7. I read this artivle here recently:

    “Wind energy developers in Arran-Elderslie now face more hurdles after council unanimously passed two bylaws at its meeting Monday. The first bylaw deals with fire emergency responses for high-angle rescues at structures higher than 45.72 metres (150 feet). The bylaw calls for a certified copy of a valid service contract with a high-angle rescue service provider “who shall respond to any and all emergencies that may occur at the proposed structure.”

    “We don’t have high-angle rescue equipment in Arran-Elderslie,” Deputy-mayor Mark Davis said.
    A wind energy developer “would have to prove to the municipality” that they have a contract with such a provider “before we’d even be able to consider issuing any (building) permit.”

    If Arran Elderslie can request this why the hell can’t Norfolk?
    Our home is about 600 metres from these things. I guess the fire department can park in our driveway and watch the toxic mess rain down on us.

    Here is the link:

    http://windconcernsontario.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/turbine-developers-on-hook-for-fire-protection-in-arran-elderslie/

    • Sorry that should be “article”.
      And I just emailed the reporter asking him if he could follow up with Norfolk council as to why other municipalities are requiring the wind developer to provide a certificate stating that they have a private contratcor who can do High Angle response and yet Capital Power has been asked for nothing along that line apparently.

      Maybe we should email the Mayor and council again as well.

      • The Mayor will not do N-E-THING that would disrupt any part of his agenda to get these turbines installed…. He’s buddies with all the PM’s at the wind companies now – they probably shared Thanksgiving Dinner this weekend!!!! After-all….. “Haldimand has been asked to be gracious hosts to these projects” !!!!!!!!

        Each turbine should have a fire foam suppression system built in with supplied water and a dedicated fire foam tank and fire pump monitored 24/7 as an absolute minimum….

  8. I think I am correct to presume that local fire departments should not be left on the hook. Just like any oil company, Bruce Nuclear, or any industrial energy company, they should provide their own specialized fire and first response team.
    Local communities do not have to be left on the hook, unless they allow themselves to be. If they
    do they are only enabling these wind companies to take more advantage of us. This is an issue
    of it’s own. Can the GEA trump this?

    • Correct again. Large city buildings have sprinkler systems and high pressure water lines to each floor with fire hoses on each floor in several different locations. Factories have the same equipment. In addition some large companies have their own fire departments. So it is not out of line to require IWT companies to furnish their own fire protection.

      • Building owners/companies have to furnish all the necessary fire fighting equipment at their own expense. The firefighters only have to be able to reach the equipment and use it. Most of the time these fires don’t involve specialized fire equipment or specialized training where companies need their own fire departments.

    • I think our local government has a responsibility not only to it’s citizens but to our first responders. Not requiring the developer to provide a credible emergency response is borderline criminal. Hiding behind the GEA shouldn’t cut it.

      I think I will look into this and feel we should be making this a very large issue.

      • Some people already have IWTs at 350 & 450 meters so they would already be in the danger zone if fire Chief Dicks of the fire department thinks 1/2 k might be safe in case of a fire.

      • We are in this position because government doesn’t give a hoot about us.
        They just want to privatize
        So I doubt this is much of an issue to them just as we are not

      • It’s an issue for people living with IWTs as at least a 1/2 km evacuation zone would have to be established around a burning IWT.

      • Oh ohh I guess the donkey’s arse brain trust never thought of that one!

  9. Samsung’s poster boy was asked that very question prior to ratifying the deal with all 4 proponents coming into Haldimand county. I know he heard me as we looked each other directly in the eyes and neither of us blinked. I was thinking about our first responders as well as every citizen that will be in the “danger zone”, whatever that distance is. This is a very real concern and none of the proponents should be allowed to down play it. Lightning strikes will be real concerns as well as the north shore of Lake Erie is host to some large storms. Will 150+ meter high lighning rods attract more? Solar panel covered roofs should also be a huge concern. These are electrical generating plants and can’t be turned off instantly. Fire prevention should have been considered way before 550 meter setbacks were OKed but then as Ernest stated, we are not the issue. We can be though if more voices start to be heard. It would be nice to hear some of our first responders voices in this, I’m sure the community will stand behind, in front, beside or where ever you’d like us to in support. Send all politicians your concerns, they need to be embraced with every counties strength of numbers. We will not stop fighting this until it is stopped.

    • IWTs were developed for use in Northern Europe where lightning and tornados are not an issue. Lightning strikes in southwestern Ontario are as frequent as they are in cental Florida. Makes SW Ontario one of the lightning capitals of the world. It’s only a question of when and not if IWTs will be struck by lightning in this part of the province.

  10. Barbara, you are quite right: our house, in Norfolk County, is 400 meters from the closest wind turbine, another at 500m. Norfolk Council is well aware of this, we’ve reminded them of this fact a thousand times. We’re not holding our breath waiting for them to do something.

    • Get this in writing as many times as you can to prove stonewalling or “bad faith” dealings. Also might come in handy if you ever have an insurance claim due to IWT damage to your property.

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