Santee, CA, Crews Stop Fire from Reaching Buildings under Construction

May 23, 2024
The fire was contained to the pipes and concrete vaults between them, Santee Fire Chief Justin Matsushita explained.

Teri Figueroa

The San Diego Union-Tribune


Fire broke out at the construction site of a $950 million water treatment plant in Santee on Wednesday afternoon, a fire official said.

A pipe — 42 inches in diameter — caught fire as crews were fusing two of them together at the site near Santee Lakes, said Santee Fire Chief Justin Matsushita. He said the pipes are made of a hydrocarbon material.

It was just smoke at first, he said. But as crews were investigating the smoke, the material started to burn, and the fire "really started to escalate quickly," he said.

Matsushita said crews were able to douse the fire, which affected the pipes and concrete vaults between them. The fire did not reach any of the "massive" buildings under construction, nor did it spread to the vegetation, he said.

"The fire is out, but they have to fill that pipe with water, just basically flooding it. Most of it is underground," the fire chief said, adding that the vaults must be flooded too. The vaults are essentially access points throughout the length of the pipe system.

Melissa McChesney, spokesperson for Padre Dam Municipal Water District, a partner in the project, said the fire was reported shortly after 3 p.m.

She said officials do not yet know how much the fire will impact work on construction of the plant, known as the East County Advanced Water Purification project.

The facility broke ground two years ago. The goal is to have it operating by the end of next year, and it will produce 11 million gallons of water per day.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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