ALTONA — A wind turbine in the Altona Wind Park caught fire Saturday evening, but the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
According to a press release from Noble Environmental Power, the company responsible for building the wind turbines dotting the Altona landscape, there was no damage incurred to anything besides the turbine, and there was no risk to people.
But that doesn't mean no one noticed.
As Phil Tucker and his wife, Meredith, turned onto Rand Hill Road from Military Turnpike in Altona Saturday, they were greeted by a flash that lit up the night sky.
Upon reaching their home on Rand Hill Road, the Tuckers could see the source of the flash. Flames were consuming the top portion of a wind turbine behind the Rand Hill Dairy Farm, which is across the street from their house.
"The fire caught one of the blades and made it look like a Roman candle," Phil said. "There was a snow squall that night, but we could see the flames burning right through it."
Even though the cause of the fire is still unknown, according to Noble Environmental Power, Phil thinks natural forces might have been responsible.
"We saw a flash and then heard a bang, just like a lightning strike," Mr. Tucker said.
The wind turbine is one of two on James Van Arman's property. Van Arman said he was surprised to learn that the wind turbine had caught fire.
"Noble has a regular routine for maintenance," Van Arman said. "And I was out there at 4:30 (p.m.) and everything was fine."
Altona Fire Chief Alan Mitchell was at the scene and said his volunteer department was unable to extinguish the blaze due to the turbine's inaccessibility.
"There was nothing we could do," Mitchell said. "Water (from the hoses) wouldn't reach the tower, and we couldn't get to it with a fire truck. The top of it was still burning when we left."
Douglas Bonyea, whose grandson is now the fifth-generation owner of the Rand Hill Dairy Farm, watched the flames leap off the turbine as it burned and said that the fire is not a good reason for the community to turn its back on the wind farm.
"We actually went after Noble Environmental to get wind turbines built here," Bonyea said. "They benefit everyone involved, from the landowners to the town."
Bonyea, whose family has two turbines on their property, said he has never regretted their presence on his family's land.
"They hardly make any noise and we can plant crops right up to their bases," Bonyea said. "They provide us with extra income and they lower taxes in the town. Things like this fire happen, but it's still a lot cleaner than coal and a lot safer than nuclear power."