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Man’s History Fades From View In Seconds

By Staff | Jul 29, 2016

MOUNDSVILLE — Helen McHenry and her four children watched the demolition of the R.E. Burger Plant smokestack on Friday morning at Grand Vue Park.

The family was perched with dozens of other people in an observation deck that offered an amazing, but foggy view of the valley below at Dilles Bottom.

When the blast happened as scheduled around 8:30 a.m., there was an orange glow at the 850-feet smokestack’s base moments before it came crashing down to one side almost like a tree falling the woods. What took thousands of manhours to build came crashing down in about 10 seconds.

“I think it was anti-climatic because it came down faster than expected,” said McHenry, formerly of Moundsville but now living in Belmont, Ohio. “I guess I expected more.”

McHenry’s mother, Shirley Holmes, added, “I just wanted to see history being made.”

Holmes, 72, who has lived in Moundsville all her life, said she remembers when the plant was operational. Times were different then, she said.

“It’s kind of sad, but things change,” she said.

McHenry’s 9-year-old son Levi described the explosion as “awesome” while his 8-year-old sister Karis said it was “cool.”

A few feet away from the McHenry family stood Randy Watt, who worked at the plant for more than 22 years. Watt, who worked as a shift supervisor for the plant’s operations, said he had climbed inside that smokestack many times for inspections. The plant hasn’t been fully operational in about five years. Watt said it was the tallest concrete smokestack ever demolished in the United States.

Moments after the demolition, Watt said, “It feels like the end of an era. When you see these coal fired plants go down, which are the backbone of a generation to keep the power grid secure, it just makes you wonder about the future. It was a numbing experience to see it go down.”

Watt who grew up in Bellaire, said the smokestack has been a landmark in Moundsville for decades. He worked at the plant between 1980 and 2002 before transferring to another facility. Watt said a lot of memories flashed before his eyes as the smokestack came crashing down — “The people who taught me, friends, the fun, the hazards, the emergencies that we made it through, experiments that were done down there.”

Watt said he can remember when one of the nations first emissions sequestration experiments was demonstrated at the plant. He said there were a lot of pollution technologies tested at the plant which tested coal from West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

“It was more than just a power plant,” said Watt, a longtime employee of FirstEnergy. “They really tried to advance technology and keep coal-fired generation plants viable. Unfortunately, it seems like we are losing that battle. What people don’t realize is that it was a big rolling iron the movement of those big generators they help keep the grid together. You dont get that benefit from solar or wind turbines. I fear that in the future, we are going to see reliability issues on the national grid as these larger sources of power go down.”

Watt said he came out to watch the demolition at Grand Vue because it offered “a chance to spend time with my family, maybe get back to where I grew up and see part of my history fall down.”

For more information and a video, see — theintelligencer.net/news/top-headlines/2016/07/smoke-stack-at-r-e-burger-plant-in-dilles-bottom-comes-down/