SPOKANE, Wash. – Two workers suffered critical burns at the Waste to Energy plant on South Geiger Boulevard near West Park Drive Tuesday morning, according to Brian Schaeffer of the Spokane Fire Department.
Both workers were originally taken to Sacred Heart, but are now at Harborview in Seattle. Both are in critical condition. The names of the workers will not be released until the families release them.
Schaeffer said the workers were burned while in the process of fixing a hole in a water wall. The workers were burned by steam.
Officials said it could take weeks to determine the severity of the injuries. At this point, officials said infections to the wounds are their biggest worry.
At a press conference Tuesday, Mayor David Condon said the employees have a combined experience of 23 years.
"Our hearts and our commitment is to our employees who we are doing everything we can do to make sure their families are taken care of," said Condon.
Condon said the site will be fully investigated.
City officials said there is no threat to the public at any time, but because of the impact on employees, they have suspended commercial operations
Officials from the City of Spokane said the residential self haul area at the facility will be closed Tuesday. Commercial loads have also been diverted.
Customers are asked to take their loads to the North Side or Valley transfer stations.
HOW WASTE TO ENERGY WORKS
According to officials, the City of Spokane's Waste to Energy plant has a system.
Trash is dropped off, then a crane picks up the trash and drops it into an incinerator. The incinerator produces steam that activates a turbine, which turns it into energy that is sold to companies like Avista.
The two injured employees were repairing the boiler when the accident happened.
"One of the boilers had a leak that was discovered last night," explained the city's utilities director. "It happens occasionally."
Schaeffer said the employees were doing what is considered routine maintenance.
I'm told the workers were fixing a hole in the water wall when they were burned by steam. It looks like this: pic.twitter.com/OvZjs1fO0Y— Lindsay Nadrich (@KREMLindsay) October 4, 2016
"Something that's been done innumerable times in the past for years," he said. Both men hurt in the incident had repaired the boiler in the past.
"Our thoughts, our prayers, and definitely the City's assistance all of what we have is focused on their spouses," said Mayor David Condon at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
FIGHT TO SURVIVE
Rescuers said severe burns are some of the most complicated types of injuries to treat.
Experts explained the wounds caused by burns are so delicate that doctors usually have to wait days before even examining them. That doesn't take into account the shock burns can cause the body.
Skin is the body's largest organ, so when something traumatic happens to the skin, the body can go into total shock. As a result, medical experts said, burn victims are often susceptible to infection.
City officials said the plant where the two men were injured has a state-of-the-art system in place to handle emergencies. It took rescuers six minutes to arrive on the scene Tuesday morning.