Sparks from a cutting torch ignited a cooling tower being dismantled Thursday morning at Bountiful City Power, destroying the top half of the tower and resulting in a power outage to a small segment of the city.
The 10:15 a.m. blaze also resulted in a daring escape from the top of the burning tower by an employee of the city-owned power company.Richard Pierce, a power company mechanic, said he was at the top of the 50-foot tower, located in the generating station at Third South and Second West, when sparks from his cutting torch ignited old timbers in the tower.
The tower is being dismantled for replacement with a new, shorter one, Pierce said.
The fire severed the gas lines to his torch, Pierce said, and the leaking fuel caused the blaze to flare up, almost explosively. The fire also cut Pierce off from the steps to the top of the tower and the water hose he took up with him as a safety precaution.
Pierce said he climbed over the side of the tower and dangled from its edge, working his way hand-over-hand around the edge to a pipe.
"When I got there, I could feel the top of the pipe with my toes, and then dropped down onto it," Pierce said. "I just got down on it and hugged it all the way to the ground. That pipe was starting to get pretty hot, too," he said.
"Yeah, I played Rambo this morning," Pierce said, in response to some kidding from his fellow power company employees as they watched fire fighters spray the charred timbers and metal of the cooling tower.
Pierce said water from the fire hoses tripped a switch at the power station, cutting off electricity to a small segment of the city. Power was to be restored about 11:45 a.m.