Flames finally fanned

After more than a week, a propane tanker blaze has finally been extinguished. The fire, which started just before 8 a.m. March 8 on Talbott Road in Barbour County destroying Sisolack’s Truck Repair, was snuffed at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Phil Hart, Chief of the Belington Fire Department, said Southern States Cooperative dispatched a crew at 9 a.m. Saturday to help douse the fire.

“S.W.S. Environmental came with a tractor-trailer and three guys to put out the blaze,” Hart said. “They started at 3 p.m. Saturday by degassing the tank, and eventually burned all of the propane vapors from the tank. The fire went out at 9 a.m. Sunday.”

Hart said Talbott Road was reopened to traffic Sunday morning.

“The road is reopened to traffic because there is no longer a threat,” Hart said. “All product and vapors have been removed and the scene is secure.”

When questioned, Hart said he had no idea why it took so long for the Southern States Cooperative crews to arrive.

“You would have to ask Southern States why it took so long for them to send in the crews,” Hart said. “This was a very serious situation. The liquid propane in the tank expands 270 times when converted to a vapor, and it hangs low to the ground because vapors are heavier than the air. This was a very dangerous, hazardous situation and I am glad no one was injured.”

Emergency personnel from the Belington Fire Department and Belington EMS remained on scene at the blaze around the clock since the fire ignited 10 days ago.

A constant stream of water showered the liquid propane tanker, keeping it cool so it did not explode. An incident command station was established on Talbott Road the middle of the week.

Since there was a fear for the integrity of the tanker and its plumbing after burning for so long, residents close to the fire were evacuated Thursday evening.

“There has been a lot of talk about the fact that my fire crew did not immediately put out the fire,” Hart said. “It wasn’t that we could not put the fire out. But if we would have put it out, it would have created a greater hazard.

“Putting out the fire while there was still liquid propane in the tanker would have caused a mass evacuation of the liquid propane. Folks within one square mile of the scene would have to have been evacuated.

“The result could have been a fiery disaster.”

Hart said he could not estimate the total loss resulting from the fire.

He said Fire Marshal Josh Amos is slated to visit the scene this morning.