Be Ready for "The Big One"

On Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed two buildings at the White Oil Co., a division of Michigan Petroleum Technologies, in Vienna Township, MI. Building one, (the original fire building), built in 1973, was a 128-by-70-foot...


On Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009, a multiple-alarm fire destroyed two buildings at the White Oil Co., a division of Michigan Petroleum Technologies, in Vienna Township, MI. Building one, (the original fire building), built in 1973, was a 128-by-70-foot warehouse with an 18-by-46-foot loading dock...


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At 5:10 P.M., mutual aid for manpower, equipment and foam was requested from 15 fire departments in seven counties. Departments from Genesee, Lapeer, Tuscola, Saginaw, Shiawassee, Livingston and Oakland counties responded. The Genesee County response included Mount Morris Township Station 1 Engine 37-11 to Clio Station 1 for standby and Aerial 37-A15, a 75-foot aerial ladder, and 2,500-gallon Tanker 37-12 to the scene; the Flushing Township Fire Department command trailer and 5,000-gallon Swartz Creek Tanker 44-23 to the scene and Squad 41-16 to primary staging; Grand Blanc Fire Department Engine 32 and Burton City Fire Department Engine 23-31 to primary staging; 2,500-gallon Mundy Township Tanker 38-11 to the scene and Squad 38-18 to secondary staging; 3,000-gallon Forest Township Fire Department Tanker 39-14 to the scene; 2,000-gallon Montrose Township Fire Department Tanker 35-13 to the scene; 2,500-gallon Gaines Township Fire Department Tanker 49-12 to the scene; Fenton Township Fire Department Engine 14 to the scene; and Davison/Richfield Fire Department responded with 110 gallons of foam. Saginaw County's response included Frankenmuth Fire Department Engine 2 and Aerial 3, a 100-foot platform, to the scene; Maple Grove Township Fire Department 3,000-gallon Tanker 5 to the scene; a Birch Run Township Fire Department chiefs vehicle to the scene with 65 gallons of foam; Bridgeport Fire Department Utility Truck 7 to the scene with 55 gallons of foam; Buena Vista Fire Department Utility Truck 5 to the scene with 195 gallons of foam; and Taymouth Township Fire Department Brush Truck 2 to the scene with 175 gallons of foam. Shiawassee County fire departments responding included tankers from the Venice and Hazelton fire departments, but these units were canceled before they reached the scene. The Millington Fire Department from Tuscola County sent 3,000-gallon Tanker 1 to the scene. The Otter Lake Fire Department from Lapeer County responded with 2,500-gallon Tanker 14-31.

Genesee County Emergency Management Director Tami Yorks contacted Domerese to discuss the need for a temporary emergency operations center (EOC). Domerese declined at that time, but as the event escalated, it was decided to open the EOC at Clio Station 1. At 5:30 P.M., due to the intense smoke conditions, the Genesee County Sheriff's Department increased the evacuation area by extending it 1½ miles to the east to Bray Road.

Containers Explode

At 5:32, a 330-gallon steel tank jettisoned out of the fire building and traveled 135 feet north, landing in the driveway of the Pine Hill Golf Driving Range. The tank, which was believed to contain way lubricant, was allowed to burn out. At 6:07, a second BLEVE (boiling liquid, expanding vapor explosion) sent two 330-gallon steel containers of way lubricant several hundred feet into the air. Shortly thereafter, projectiles could be heard crashing through the roof of the exposed building.

At 6:09, Domerese ordered all firefighters to immediately evacuate the fire area. Hoselines were disconnected from apparatus and all personnel and apparatus were moved away from the scene. Clio Police Chief Jim McLellan advised Domerese by cell phone of 3,000 people in the Clio Amphitheater for a concert. The amphitheater is one mile from the fire scene. The wind direction was constantly changing and there was concern that the smoke plume could move over the area of the amphitheater.

The Frankenmuth Fire Department arrived on scene at 6:17 P.M. with Engine 2, a foam-capable pumper, and Aerial 3. It had been determined by this time that there was not sufficient water supply on the 12-inch main to supply another aerial. Frankenmuth personnel connected Engine 2 to Clio Aerial 12 and began applying foam to the fire. At 6:28, Aerial 12 was moved to the B side of the 11136 building to set up master stream operations. Aerial 12 was supplied for a short time by Frankenmuth Engine 2 with a 100-foot, five-inch line. It was then decided to connect Aerial 12 directly to the hydrant line, shut off the truck and operate off hydrant pressure so that all personnel could be removed from the scene. All other fire operations were suspended and would remain so until 7 A.M. on Wednesday, Aug. 5. Clio Aerial 12 remained in this position from 7 P.M. until 7 A.M. on Aug. 5. At 6:30 P.M., the temporary EOC was established at Clio Station 1. The American Red Cross notified command that an evacuation shelter had been opened at Trinity Assembly of God Church on Mount Morris Road and Interstate 75 at 6:48.

At 6:50, the primary electric lines were turned off and the wind direction had shifted to the south/southeast. Due to wind shift and increased amounts of smoke, the evacuation area was increased to Vienna Road on the north, Center Road on the east, Frances Road on the south and Saginaw Road on the west. Due to the wind shift and smoke, the primary staging area was moved to Clio Station 1, a half-mile away. Jim Helmstetter, director of environmental health services for the Genesee County Health Department, arrived at the command post and discussed the air quality and smoke. After some discussion, Helmstetter went to the EOC to work with Yorks. The command post was moved to the Clio Sand and Gravel office parking lot.

At 7:50 P.M., Domerese terminated the GCAFC Emergency Coordination and released all mutual aid departments. At 7:53, Domerese requested the Michigan State Police Fire Marshal respond to the scene because of the expected large fire loss.

Air Monitoring

At 8 P.M., Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 On-Scene Coordinator Jon Gulch arrived at the command post to discuss the air-monitoring plan. The Oakland County Hazardous Materials Team was assigned to assist him. Seven multi-gas meters and two particulate monitors were to be deployed overnight in the downwind direction. At 9:25, the wind direction changed again, blowing from northeast to southwest and requiring a further evacuation. During the first six hours of the fire, the wind shifted 180 degrees. The total evacuation area at the height of the incident was 18 square miles.