I know it's a ski website and all but these five guys need people to pray for them!!
GEORGETOWN, Colo. -- Five people are trapped 1,000 feet underground at the Cabin Creek hydroelectric facility after a chemical fire ignited in a pipeline Tuesday afternoon.
According to Xcel spokeswoman Ethnie Groves, firefighters have made progress in extinguishing the fire, which has been described as smoldering.
Officials believe the workers are breathing fresh air being pumped into the pipe, but have not yet heard from the workers since around 3 p.m.
When the fire was first reported, at 2:30 the trapped workers made radio contact but have not been heard from since.
According to Xcel spokeswoman Ethnie Groves, nine contractors were working inside a water pipe about 1,500 to 2,000 feet below ground, coating it with an epoxy solution to prevent erosion, when a piece of equipment ignited the fire.
The pipe, also known as a penstock, is a tube used to transfer water from a lake to the turbines inside the plant.
The fire separated the nine men inside the penstock.
The four below the fire were able to escape, but five workers above the fire were trapped, Groves said.
The fire is about 2,000 feet underground and the workers are about 1,000 feet above the fire, and about 1,050 feet from the entrance of the penstock, Groves said.
Crews above ground dropped oxygen bottles to the workers around 3:30 p.m. to help the workers breathe, Groves said. Fresh air is also being directed to the workers.
"We were able to get them a fresh airflow within about 45 minutes. So there is fresh air flowing into the pipe where they are," she said.
The contractors made radio contact with crews around 3 p.m., but they have not been heard from since.
Rescue officials believe the five workers are OK and in a safe place, said Groves.
According to Tom Henley, Senior Media Relations Representative for Xcel, "There was communication with the five workers shortly after the fire broke out and there were no reported injuries at that time."
The workers are hunkered down on a temporary platform used to stop water from coming up the pipe while the workers conducted maintenance.
Rescue crews plan to rescue the workers in two steps. First, firefighters from nearby Henderson Mine will come up through the bottom of the pipe to extinguish the fire.
The mine rescue team is trained in confined space mine rescue and fire fighting, Grove said.
Then, members of the Alpine Rescue Team will rappel down the pipe from the top and rescue the workers.
The rescue team must wait for the fire to be extinguished before they can move in.
"We have an Alpine Rescue team that is coming down from the top. And then we also have rescue teams that are starting out from the bottom, from the Cabin Creek station. So the two crews are going to work and meet these folks in the middle," Groves said. The workers do not have the necessary equipment to climb up the pipe.
Groves said they would have to climb about 1,500 feet and then up a 50-foot vertical rise to reach the surface.
The shaft is 48-inches wide and officials did not have an estimate how long it would take to put the fire out.
Of the four workers who escaped, two were treated for chemical inhalation and one was airlifted to St. Anthony's Central Hospital. Their names have not been released.
According to Georgetown police Officer Nick Borys, about 50 rescue vehicles have gathered on site to assist with the rescue.
"Right now there's a full-blown rescue operation going on," Borys said
The Cabin Creek Power/Hydro Plant, six miles up Guanella Pass Road from Georgetown, is a hydroelectric pumped storage power plant owned and operated by Xcel Energy.
The plant opened in April 1967 and it comprises of two reservoirs where water flows from an upper reservoir to a lower reservoir to turn its generators and create electricity.
The plant is located about five miles south of Georgetown, at 10,018 feet above sea level.
Xcel Energy said that it was a supplemental power plant and no electrical outage is expected by the shutdown of the plant and the rescue operation.