Military-civilian mutual aid helps control gasoline tanker fire
LIMITED-ACCESS FREEWAY vehicle fires continue to create difficult problems for fire departments, but planning for such possibilities has resulted in quicker control when blazes of this nature occur. A recent Southern California incident involved prearranged military-civilian fire department response and cooperation which not only controlled a serious flowing gasoline fire but permitted salvage of approximately one-fourth of the 8,000 gallons of fuel involved.
On January 3, a tanker pulling a trailer was traveling south on Highway 101 toward Oceanside, when apparently a rear axle broke, dropping the right side of the truck to the pavement out of control. It struck the righthand curb and then swerved across the raised dividing island into the northbound lane, coming to rest against the concrete railing of the San Luis Hey River bridge. The trailer upset and caught fire, with blazing fuel running along the highway and down the embankment nearby. Fortunately, traffic was light at the time and no untoward incident occurred involving oncoming autos or trucks.
The Oceanside Fire Department received the alarm at 1:05 p.m. from a service station on North Hill Street. Engine 4 with three men, Engine 2 with two men and Tanker 1 with a driver were dispatched.
On arrival at the Hill Street Overpass, Engine 4 proceeded to fight flaming gasoline running down both sides of the Freeway. Engine 2 stretched two 2 1/2-inch lines from Hill Street to the bridge.
Camp Pendleton called
Chief Billing ordered the dispatcher to call by radio for assistance from Camp Pendleton and to recall off-duty firemen, and also the reserves. Orders were also given for Engine 1 to respond to the river bottom to contain a grass fire in an area beneath and east of the bridge.
Engine 4 proceeded north as close to the fire as possible. Tanker 1 pulled along side of Engine 4, but in the southbound lane, and replenished the booster tank of Engine 4. The latter company was checking flow of gasoline to the south into the northbound lane of traffic.
—USMC photos courtesy the Oceanside Blade Tribune
In the meantime, Camp Pendleton was responding from the north end of the bridge to the fire, and Carlsbad dispatched Engine 2 to stand by at Oceanside Headquarters Station.
At 1:12 p.m., Fire Department Headquarters, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton received the call for assistance. Engine Co. 6, 1 1/2 miles north of the scene was dispatched along with Engine Co. 1 and two high-pressure fog brush trucks, one with a 500-gallon-capacity tank and the other with a 300-gallon tank; one rescue truck; three pickups with liquid foam; the chief and assistant chief also responded. The Marine Corp Auxiliary Landing Field (Camp Pendleton) dispatched one MB-5 crash unit.
From a report by Chief John T. Billing, Oceanside, Calif. Fire. Department and Chief W. B. Clayton. Camp Pendleton Marine Bane Fire Department
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Upon arrival, Engine Co. 6 stretched 1,600 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose south to the fire. Engine Co. 1 hooked into the line forming a relay which provided two 1 1/2-inch fog lines and one 2 1/2inch fog line. All were used to cool down the tanker and wash down the area involved. Extinguishment was accomplished in a very short time.
Traffic was tied up for a distance of 2 1/2 miles either side of the crash.
After the fire in the gasoline tanker was under control, Tanker 1 was dispatched to the river bottom to control the fire in that area. It was assisted by reserves.
The tank truck driver escaped the wreckage by climbing out a cab window and attempting to run from the flames. He fell unconscious nearby but was rescued by a passing motorist and a Marine Corps sergeant and taken to Oceanside Hospital.