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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Domerese returned to the EOC to confer with Yorks regarding the incident situation, air monitoring, evacuations and the operational plan for the next 12 hours. At 1:26 A.M. on Aug. 5, all remaining personnel were sent home for the night. At 6 A.M., Domerese arrived back at the EOC to meet with Yorks, Helmstetter, Gulch and WEYI meteorologist Mark Terrigrosa to discuss the smoke, wind direction and evacuation area. It was decided to leave the existing evacuation in place for several more hours and re-evaluate conditions at 11 A.M.

At 7 A.M., Domerese asked both Clio fire stations to return to the scene to extinguish the fire. The fire had continued to burn through the night with most of the product in the original fire building being consumed. Significant fire still remained in the second building. The two 25,000-gallon diesel fuel and one 15,000-gallon gasoline above-ground storage tanks were intact, although significant charring was observed at the loading and unloading connections. It was later discovered that a 55-gallon drum had BLEVEd into the air and struck the gasoline storage tank, but did not breach it. It was decided to have Mount Morris City bring foam-capable Engine 11 to the site to supply Clio Aerial 12 rather than using handlines. The Genesee County Hazardous Materials Team returned to the scene to monitor the runoff and coordinate with the Young's Environmental response team.

Clio Aerial 12 and Mount Morris City Fire Chief Todd Rockwell and Engine 11 arrived at the scene at 8:09 A.M. A safety meeting was held with all parties on site at 9 o'clock. A schedule of update meetings was established to be at 9 A.M., noon and 6 P.M. each day for the next week. Young's Environmental brought equipment on scene to begin vacuuming operations in the low-lying areas to the northeast and east of the incident. Gary Brannock, Young's vice president of safety and emergency response, was in charge of the company's containment operation. Mount Morris City Engine 44-11 was supplied by a 100-foot, five-inch line and fed Aerial 12 with a 100-foot, five-inch line. Aerial 12 was set up in the south driveway on the D side of the 11134 building and operated for three hours.

At 11 A.M., command reviewed the smoke and air-quality readings and lifted all evacuations except for those within a half-mile of the scene. At 1:08, the order to lift the evacuation was given, although Saginaw Road between Tobias Road on the north and Wilson Road on the south would remain closed until Thursday evening. The fire was declared under control at 4 P.M. and Domerese declared the fire out at 4:30.

Summary

The CAFD had a current pre-plan of the buildings that was completed after the addition of the outside storage tanks in January 2008. Pre-plans of other large occupancies or locations with special fire loads have been reviewed and a box-alarm system has been developed for initial response. The Michigan State Police, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), EFI Global and Consumers Energy investigated the fire. The investigation is ongoing at this time. Damage was estimated at $1.2 million to buildings; $500,000 to contents and $1.5 million to the inventory. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

In the aftermath, Domerese cited several problems encountered during the incident. He said the first-alarm response of equipment and manpower was insufficient and that the department was not prepared for an incident of this size. Also, he noted that there were no fire suppression systems in either building. In addition, he cited a lack of sufficient foam supplies initially and the limited water supply available on a 12-inch dead-end water main. Changing wind direction required the evacuation radius to be changed several times.

As for successes, 1,500 gallons of foam was brought to the scene by mutual aid fire departments and private companies. The chief also was pleased with the responders' ability to establish a tanker-shuttle operation to provide adequate water for firefighting operations.

JAY K. BRADISH/IFPA, Firehouse® news editor, is a former captain in the Bradford Township, PA, Fire Department. He has been a volunteer firefighter and fire photographer for more than 25 years.