On The Job: FLORIDA

The city of Ocala is 80 miles north of Orlando, in north-central Florida. Ocala is situated so that many highways transect through the city, including U.S. Routes 27, 301 and 441 and Interstate 75. Ocala Fire Rescue is one of the oldest fire...


The city of Ocala is 80 miles north of Orlando, in north-central Florida. Ocala is situated so that many highways transect through the city, including U.S. Routes 27, 301 and 441 and Interstate 75. Ocala Fire Rescue is one of the oldest fire departments in the state, serving its citizens since...


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The city of Ocala is 80 miles north of Orlando, in north-central Florida. Ocala is situated so that many highways transect through the city, including U.S. Routes 27, 301 and 441 and Interstate 75. Ocala Fire Rescue is one of the oldest fire departments in the state, serving its citizens since 1885. Highway motor vehicle collisions and truck fire incidents are no strangers to Ocala firefighters; however, one incident shut down traffic for more than three hours.

On Saturday, May 29, 2010, an 8,800-gallon gasoline tanker caught fire just outside the city limits while traveling northbound on I-75 during the early morning. Traffic was heavier than usual due to the Memorial Day weekend. The driver of the tractor-trailer told fire officials that while driving the fully loaded vehicle, he heard a hissing sound coming from under the dashboard. At about the same time, he looked into the side-view mirror and saw flames coming from a rear wheel of the trailer. The truck slowed and pulled onto the outside shoulder of the highway at mile marker 349.

An approaching sheriff's deputy observed the situation and positioned his car with emergency lights activated to block a segment of the interstate highway. The roadway is a divided highway with a guardrail separating three lanes northbound and three lanes southbound. The deputy exited his vehicle, which was staged several hundred feet south of the tractor-trailer. A passenger vehicle swerved and struck the deputy's vehicle, resulting in a rollover. Three occupants were ejected and two other passengers were hurt. This rollover resulted in two additional vehicles being involved in a collision.

At 2:04 A.M., Marion County Fire Rescue (MCFR) received notification of an incident on I-75 and responded. On arrival, all the fire department units from Marion County stopped at the vehicle collision to render aid. Two patients inside the rolled-over vehicle had to be extricated and a trauma alert was issued for one of the ejected occupants. A ShandsCare Hospital medical helicopter was scrambled as requested. The Marion County sheriff deputy was not injured. Marion County Fire Rescue requested the assistance of the Florida Highway Patrol and Ocala Fire Rescue.

At 2:21, the following Ocala Fire Rescue units were dispatched to handle the truck fire: Battalion 22 Chief Wally Brinkman, Engines 4 and 6, Rescue 4 and a safety officer. The flammable placard on the tanker contained the identification number 1203. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook classifies this type of tanker as a TC306, Non-Pressure Liquid Tank, and indicates the contents are "easily ignited by heat, sparks or flames."

Engine 4 arrived on scene a few minutes after being dispatched, and was followed moments later by Engine 6. Each engine carries 1,000 gallons of water and 10 gallons of foam. Personnel from both units pulled handlines to the trailer fire which was now engulfing the rear of the gasoline tanker. It was determined that the driver of the truck had exited the vehicle uninjured and was in a safe location. The tanker was fully loaded, carrying 8,800 gallons of gasoline.

At 2:28, Brinkman arrived to get a briefing and then set up a unified command system with Marion County Fire Rescue. Because of the complexity of the incident and geographical distance involved, it was agreed to establish two separate command posts; one was established for the motor vehicle collision and the other a unified command to handle the tanker fire. An attempt by firefighters to separate the tractor from the trailer was unsuccessful. For safety reasons, command asked the Florida Highway Patrol to shut down all northbound and southbound lanes early in the incident.

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