Moment Hoover Dam is rocked by massive explosion caused by transformer fire: Authorities assure nearby residents that power from one of country’s largest hydro-electric facilities will continue as mega-drought sends reservoir to historic lows
- Explosion rocked the Hoover Dam complex on the Colorado River near Las Vegas on Tuesday
- Officials say one of the transformers at the power-generating turbine house caught fire
- Video shows flames and a massive plume of black smoke rising from a power-generating turbine house
- Frightened tourists on top of the dam were quickly moved out of the area to safety
- The blaze was extinguished in about 30 minutes, before fire units arrived from nearby Boulder City
Shocking video shows a red flare, followed by yellow flames and a black mushroom cloud rising from the chaos after a transformer explosion rocked the Hoover Dam and damaged the hydroelectric complex on the border between Nevada and Arizona.
Officials said there were no injuries following the fire on Tuesday in the turbine house of the massive power-generating dam, which supplies electricity to parts of three states.
Water levels in Lake Mead, the reservoir created by the dam, are at historically low levels due to an ongoing mega-drought in the area, which was also experiencing extreme heat on Tuesday.
It’s unclear whether high demand for electricity, or diminished generating capacity due to low water levels, played a role in the fire. Officials said the cause of the fire was under investigation.
‘There is no risk to the power grid and power is still being generated from the powerhouse,’ said Jacklynn L. Gould, regional director for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam.
Gould said that the Hoover Dam’s A5 transformer caught fire at about 10am, and the blaze was extinguished within about 30 minutes by a fire brigade the Bureau maintains on-site.
Video from the Hoover Dam on Tuesday showed fire and smoke rising from the turbine house on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, at the foot of the 726-foot tall dam
A huge plume of smoke rose from the fire after an electrical transformer at the dam caught fire on Tuesday
Firefighters pour water on electrical transformer equipment that caught fire at the Hoover Dam on Tuesday
A red box highlights the area of the dam complex where the fire occurred (file photo)
BEFORE (left) and AFTER in 2021 (right): Images show the lowering water level of Lake Mead at the Hoover Dam. The concrete arch-gravity dam constructed in the 1930’s in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River provides drinking water to Arizona, Nevada, and part of Mexico. But residents have been warned to prepare for shortages as an ongoing drought causes a sharp drop in water levels
Nashville-based writer Kristy Hairston was touring the dam when she captured video of the smoke and fire from the top of the iconic dam.
‘Something has just blown up!’ a person is heard saying repeatedly in the video, as a tour guide is heard telling the group to evacuate the area.
Hairston posted video of the incident on Twitter at 10.10am local time. Emergency radio traffic indicated that the blaze had been fully extinguished by 10.40am.
Units from the nearby Boulder City Fire Department responded to the blaze, but Boulder City officials said that the fire had been extinguished by the time they arrived.
The city referred further inquires to the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the power-generating dam.
‘We are investigating the cause of the fire and will provide additional updates as they are available,’ a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation said in a statement
As both an iconic American structure and a piece of critical infrastructure, Hoover Dam has long been tightly protected against potential attacks.
Another view downriver from the dam shows the smoke and fire rising from the turbine house
Firefighters spray water after a fire on the Arizona side of the Hoover Dam. Officials say no one was injured when a transformer at Hoover Dam briefly caught fire Tuesday morning
Firefighters work after a fire on the Arizona side of the Hoover Dam, Tuesday near Boulder City, Nevada
The Hoover Dam is seen last month, as the reservoir receded to record lows. Tuesday’s explosion occurred in a turbine house on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, seen to the right above
A view is seen inside the turbine house in a file photo. The dam generates electricity for parts of Arizona, California and Nevada but as the water in Lake Mead drops, so does the dam’s electrical output
BEFORE (left) and AFTER in 2021 (right): Images show boats fill up slips at a marina on Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, in Boulder City, Nevada. Areas which were once fully-submerged are now on dry land
The Bureau of Reclamation maintains a special armed police force in charge of security at the dam, and operates checkpoints to screen visitors to the area.
The Hoover Dam sits on the border between Nevada and Arizona, about 30 miles outside Las Vegas.
Constructed in the 1930s during the Great Depression, it impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US by volume when full.
However, Lake Mead has plunged to its lowest levels on record in recent months, as a megadrought batters the western US.
The reservoir is now below 30 percent of capacity. Its level has dropped 170 feet since reaching a high-water mark in 1983.
In recent months, receding waters of Lake Mead National Recreation Area have revealed the skeletal remains of two people, along with countless desiccated fish and a graveyard of forgotten and stranded watercraft.
BEFORE August 2000 (left) and AFTER August 2021 (right): Natural-color satellite images from NASA show how water levels at Lake Mead have dropped 21 years apart
Image shows historically low water levels on June 9, 2021 due to drought are seen in the Hoover Dam reservoir of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Nevada. The normal pool level is seen at the change in color in the surrounding rock
A boat that used to be underwater now sits on a dried section of Lake Mead Callville Bay Resort & Marina in Overton, Nevada
A dock that used to be on water now sits on dried land at Lake Mead Callville Bay Resort & Marina in Overton, Nevada
Houseboats, sailboats and motorboats have been beached, creating a surreal scene in an otherwise rugged desert landscape.
Buoys that once marked no-boat-zones now sit marooned in dirt. Even a sunken World War II-era craft that once surveyed the lake has emerged from the receding waters.
The reservoir is crucial to the water supply of 25 million people including in the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas, Reuters reported.
The Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam constructed in the 1930’s in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to Arizona, Nevada, and part of Mexico.
The dam generates electricity for parts of Arizona, California and Nevada and as the water in Lake Mead drops, so does the dam’s electrical output.
On average, the dam usually produces about 2,074 megawatts, which is enough electricity for about 8 million people, according to the Western Area Power Administration.