Oklahoma: Lightning Hits Glenpool Gasoline Storage Tank

Just 11 minutes after being filled with nearly 5 million gallons of gasoline, a fuel-storage tank was struck by lightning, igniting a large fire.


A lightning strike ignited a fire in a gasoline-storage tank at the Explorer Pipeline Terminal in Glenpool, OK, on June 12, 2006. The incident involved Tank 373, on the east side of the tank farm. The tank was constructed in 1970 with a welded steel-cone roof. It was 140 feet in diameter and 48 feet...


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A lightning strike ignited a fire in a gasoline-storage tank at the Explorer Pipeline Terminal in Glenpool, OK, on June 12, 2006. The incident involved Tank 373, on the east side of the tank farm. The tank was constructed in 1970 with a welded steel-cone roof. It was 140 feet in diameter and 48 feet high, and could store up to 128,319 barrels (nearly 5.4 million gallons). In 1977, an internal aluminum floating deck was installed in the tank.

Eleven minutes before the lightning strike, the tank was filled to a height of 43 feet with approximately 117,000 barrels (4.9 million gallons) of blended gasoline. This was the second tank fire at the facility that the department had responded to in three years, but the largest facility fire in the fire department's 100-year history.

The Glenpool Fire Department was dispatched to a reported "tank fire" at 9:07 A.M. Responding on the initial alarm were Glenpool Engines 1 and 3 with seven firefighters under the command of Captain Clay Ward, who reported that a large fire was visible from over a quarter-mile away. Within four minutes of the lightning strike, Explorer Pipelines staff started the facility's emergency fire pumps and placed fixed monitors into operation in an effort to keep nearby tanks cool, as well as to keep the burning tank cool to prevent it from collapsing. Facility employees also notified key company personnel.

Upon arrival, Ward requested all available Glenpool firefighters respond to the scene. He also called for mutual aid from the Bixby and Jenks fire departments. Ward established command and designated a staging area for mutual aid departments. Fire Chief Paul Newton arrived on scene at 9:23 A.M. and assumed command. Upon assessing the situation and identifying the potential risks to the 10 to 15 adjoining homes, a voluntary evacuation was requested. Newton immediately requested additional resources from the Sapulpa and Tulsa fire departments and the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Group. The majority of the specialized equipment that was needed to extinguish a fire of this type was staged at the Sunoco Refinery in Tulsa.

Defensive operations were initiated upon arrival of the fire department. Initial efforts were focused on eliminating potential ignition of exposures consisting of adjacent tanks filled with gasoline. Cooling streams from Explorer's fire protection system protected the other tanks. Explorer's fire protection system consists of a 1.26 million-gallon water supply tank, electric and gasoline-driven fire pumps and a network of six-inch water mains that supply 33 hydrants throughout the facility. All hydrants are equipped with deluge monitors.

While additional local personnel and equipment were arriving, a telephone conference was held by incident commanders, Explorer personnel, Sunoco officials, and Williams Fire and Hazard Control. This briefing was beneficial to all in regards to understanding exactly what confronted them in extinguishing this fire. This was a very large internal floating roof tank that would require extensive coordination between the facility and emergency personnel. There is less experience in the industry in fighting fires of this type due to the infrequency of occurrences. The condition of the cone and the floating roof were important in determining the tactics to be used. After a risk-versus-benefit assessment, it was decided to remove some of the product from the burning tank.

At 11:16 A.M., command was notified of an approaching thunderstorm with heavy downpours lasting up to one hour. Luckily, this storm passed north of the incident and did not affect firefighting operations. While waiting for Williams Fire and Hazard Control officials and equipment to arrive, incident commanders utilizing mutual aid resources established two additional water supplies to supplement the facilities water supply.

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