Gasoline Tanker Crash Fire Confined
Cooling streams, exposure protection and a heavy application of foam confined a gasoline fire that resulted from a collision of a loaded, 8000-gallon semi trailer gasoline tanker and a dump truck.
The tanker was leaving Texaco’s Eagle Point Refinery in Westville, N.J., just south of Camden, and entering the northbound lanes of U.S. Route 130, a four-lane divided highway, when the collision with the four-axle dump truck occurred.
The tank was damaged in the front right corner and began leaking before the trucks came to a stop. The dump truck driver said that he saw “pieces of gold” flying through the air. He soon realized that this was gasoline, and both he and the tanker driver scrambled from their trucks. Within seconds, both trucks were enveloped in flames less than 100 yards from the terminal gate.
Westville’s Union and Independent Fire Companies and the Verga Fire Company responded to the first alarm last August 17 and found the trucks heavily involved in fire that was threatening two houses less than 75 feet away. Water streams were aimed on the intact section of the trailer to keep it cool and also on the exposed homes.
This was obviously not going to extinguish the fire, so Westville Borough Chief Pat Sully radioed Camden County’s Communication Center, which monitors Gloucester County’s frequency, for assistance with foam. Camden County dispatched Ashland Fire Company 2 of Cherry Hill, about 10 miles away. Ashland responded with its airport-type foam pumper and a van with additional foam.
Ashland went into service with a nozzle and two hand lines but was unable to make a sustained attack because of water supply problems. Just the day before, a water main had broken in the area and repairs were incomplete. Another pumper and a boost in pressure from the water company alleviated the problem.
The fire was being contained to a 50-foot-diameter area. The gasoline was leaking slowly enough to burn off before flowing far.
A sustained attack was made, but the fire persisted. A Texaco foam pumper which responded early in the fire went into service with its turret when Ashland arrived. Texaco was maintaining its foam supply, but Ashland was beginning to run out. The Mobil refinery in nearby Gibbstown sent 10 55-gallon drums of foam concentrate. Texaco supplied a forklift to get the foam into Ashland’s truck.
The fire attack began to succeed and the fire appeared to be extinguished several times but flare-ups brought it back to its original intensity. At 6:45, after nearly two hours of fire fighting, the fire was extinguished. A gash about 3 feet long near the top of the tank continued to flow a gasoline and water mixture. Foam application to the tank continued as it was literally steaming.
The foaming lasted until after 9 a.m., when the tank was pumped out. Over 4000 gallons of gasoline were recovered from the tank and more than 1000 gallons of a gasoline, water and foam mixture were also removed. It turned out that only the forward compartment of the tank was involved, but more than 2000 gallons of gasoline burned. Almost 2200 gallons of foam concentrate were used during the operation.
Both truck drivers, who were only shaken up, were charged with careless driving.
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