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2 Florida Power & Light employees injured, 1 firefighter hurt after explosion at Indiantown power plant

'Out of my 28 years on the job, this is probably one of the most dangerous calls,' Martin County Fire Rescue Chief Chad Cianciulli says
Martin County Fire Rescue responded to a fire at a Florida Power and Light power plant in Indiantown on May 16, 2024.
Posted at 8:49 PM, May 16, 2024

INDIANTOWN, Fla. — A fire and explosion at a Florida Power and Light power plant in western Martin County injured two employees and a firefighter Thursday, fire rescue officials said.

The fire occurred at the Martin Next Generation Clean Energy Center located at 21900 Southwest Warfield Blvd. at about 6:30 p.m.

The utility company said Friday morning there has been no impact to power service across the region.

A 250-megawatt generator unit caught fire, according to Martin County Fire Rescue Chief Chad Cianciulli. After it was extinguished, two FPL workers went to close some vents, but there was combustible material on the ground which exploded from the heat.

"The heat just made the combination to where it actually flashed, and that flash is where everything in that area is one big quick flash of fire," Cianciulli said. "If you're in that area and it's combustible, it's going to burn."

A Martin County Fire Rescue firefighter pulled the FPL workers to safety but suffered minor injuries in the process. The firefighter, who has been with the department for close to 20 years, was taken to Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital in Port St. Lucie. He was released Thursday night with minor injuries and is expected to make a full recovery.

One FPL worker suffered serious injuries and was taken by medical helicopter to the Miami Burn Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The second FPL worker sustained minor injuries and was taken to HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital in Fort Pierce.

Everyone except a hazmat crew was evacuated from the plant while crews worked to extinguish the blaze. The fire was fully extinguished at approximately 11:30 p.m.

Martin County Fire Rescue Chief Chad Cianciulli speaks about the dangers that crews encountered responding to the fire at the power plant on May 16, 2024.
Martin County Fire Rescue Chief Chad Cianciulli speaks about the dangers that crews encountered responding to the fire at the power plant on May 16, 2024.

The fire chief said a suppression system in the facility should've automatically extinguished the fire, but it didn't work. He said his crews had to do what he calls an "aggressive foam operation" to battle the fire.

"Out of my 28 years on the job, this is probably one of the most dangerous calls that we can be on," Cianciulli said. "It's just the potential hazards that are here, the different types of chemicals we have on scene, the different fuels on scene. It's just a multi-hazard scene for us to be on."

The chief said fire rescue is at the site quarterly with FPL to train with crews and perform drills to deal with similar situations like Thursday's events.

The Martin County Sheriff's Office said they were sending detectives to the scene due to the severity of the accident. The State Fire Marshal's Office is also investigating the explosion and blaze.

The license from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said the plant was first certified in the 1990s. It also received additions over the years including solar panels.

PLANT IS 'WORLD'S FIRST HYBRID SOLAR ENERGY CENTER'

A news release in 2011 celebrated the plant as the world's first hybrid solar energy center.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the plant uses mostly natural gas but solar energy as well to generate power.

A press release also said the facility is about 500 acres.

FPL said the plant connects more than 190,000 solar mirrors with an existing combined natural gas power plant. The mirrors then track the sun to harness fuel and offset fossil fuels.

Florida Power and Light released the following statement regarding the incident:

"We are aware of the serious incident Thursday night at FPL's power plant in Indiantown that injured two of our employees. We are working closely with first responders in Martin County and are unable to provide additional information."