Oil tank blaze lasts all night

Oberlin Herald – May 24, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – June 6, 2017

Photo by Norcatur Fire Chief Carl Lyon. Click on photo to view full-size.

It took Oberlin and Norcatur firefighters about 11 hours to extinguish an oil tank fire near Lyle started by lightning blast Monday night.

The Norcatur Rural Fire Department, which was closer, got the call first and had three grass rigs rolling by 10 p.m. last Monday. Fire Chief Carl Lyon said eight men from the volunteer force responded.

The Oberlin Rural Fire Department sent its big pumper truck, but muddy roads prevented it from making it to the fire. However, Oberlin Fire Chief Bill Cathcart arrived in his private vehicle.

Chief Cathcart said the crew driving the Oberlin truck turned on the wrong road in the darkness and got stuck. The Decatur County Road and Bridge department sent out a grader to pull the truck out, but it blew a tire, which required a return trip to Oberlin to get a replacement before the truck could be extracted.

“It was like 4 a.m. before they got that truck out of the ditch,” Chief Cathcart said.

The fire was in one of two metal storage tanks and a fiberglass gunbarrel tank, used to separate the oil from gas and water, Chief Cathcart said.

The tank battery was on the former John Cozad homestead, but no one lives there now, Chief Lyon said. The pumps that send oil to the tanks had not been on since the blizzard on April 30 took out the power lines.

He said the fire was brought under control and nearly out by about 2 a.m. Firefighters used chemical foam to suppress the flames.

“It’s really good stuff,” the chief said. “It’s very concentrated and smothers the fire.”

Six of the Norcatur firefighters went back to the firehouse, Chief Lyon said, but just a few minutes later, the fire erupted “like a volcano” when one side of the fiberglass tank melted away.

Oil ran into the containment ditch, burning as it went, he said.

“We had the metal tank put out and we were almost done with the fiberglass one,” Chief Cathcart said.

The far wall of the fiberglass tank melted and the oil spilled out in a two-foot wave, he said, causing the flames to flare up.

“When that happened, it was back to square one,” Chief Cathcart said, adding that the firemen decided to let it burn until morning.

Chief Lyon and fireman Scott Hartzog remained at the scene until 6 a.m., then went back to the firehouse to regroup and get more foam. The chief said the fire was declared out at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Chief Cathcart, who also returned with one of Oberlin’s quick attack vehicles to help put the fire out, said that the blaze was started by a lightning strike. Firemen later learned that the third tank was empty.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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