Oklahoma City F. D. Averts Disaster

Oklahoma City F. D. Averts Disaster

What might have developed into a disaster of serious proportions in Oklahoma City, Okla., was averted January 18 by the prompt and efficient measures taken by the fire department under Chief G. R. McAlpine.

At about 2:00 P. M. on that date, the department was notified of a break in an oil line in a highly congested, residential area at N. E. Fifth street and Harrison avenue, at the intersection of Oklahoma Route One.

Upon arrival at the scene, fire department officials found that a high pressure oil main had ruptured 150 feet south of the intersection and live crude oil was pouring from the pipe, following the grade and running along the gutters north on Oklahoma avenue to the Harrison street intersection. At that point the oil was coursing southwest along Harrison avenue, a distance of about 800 feet, where it was finding its way into storm sewers, catch basins and all street openings.

Parked along Oklahoma and Harrison avenues were about fifty automobiles, under which the crude oil was flowing in a stream of about three feet in width by three inches in depth. This presented a precarious situation as the oil in question burns with the intensity of gasoline. Obviously, its immediate, safe removal was paramount.

Four engine companies were summoned by radio and four hose lines put to work, flushing the oil into catch basins and storm sewers. Four police cars were also called, and these operated under the directions of the fire department. The entire area was quickly blocked off and no one allowed therein. Police and firemen maintained a close watch to see that all fires in business and residential premises were extinguished and all persons kept at a distance.

According to Chief McAlpine’s report to FIRE ENGINEERING, a lighted match or spark of any kind would have ignited the flowing oil, with serious results.

Quick work by firemen in shutting off the flow of oil and immediately flushing the oil into the sewer, while evacuating persons from the affected area, removed the greatest danger. There was, of course, still the hazard of live crude and its vapors in the sewer system and this, too, had to be dealt with. This was done by flowing large quantities of water through the sewers, until all the oil was safely washed away. Flushing operations, incidentally, were continued until the hazardous gases were also removed.

This situation, Chief McAlpine reports, is not new in oil fields, as these breaks occur frequently and in some cases, where the area is congested and the flammables become ignited, there has been considerable loss of property, and even casualties to personnel.

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