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Arson not suspected in fire at Calif. power plant

Associated Press Modified: November 23, 2012 at 6:30 pm •  Published: November 23, 2012

OROVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Fire crews mopped up and surveyed damage Friday from a fire at a Northern California power plant that supplies electricity to pumps used by a major water delivery system, authorities said.

Crews were able to get into the Ronald B. Robie Thermalito Pumping-Generating plant near Oroville after the fire died down overnight, state fire Capt. Scott McLean said. Fire crews had to battle thick black smoke and miles of wires that allowed flames to spread through walls, but they had the blaze under control by early Friday afternoon, McLean said.

The five-story plant was unoccupied when the fire broke out Thursday morning on the first floor below ground level, and no one was injured, he said. The cause is under investigation, although arson is not suspected, McLean said.

Officials from the California Department of Water Resources, which operates the plant, will not be allowed back inside until the air inside is safe to breathe, he said.

The plant about 70 miles north of Sacramento is part of the State Water Project, which supplies water to nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland and more than 25 million residents.

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