Wise Decision

Firefighters made right choice in Tyler County

Thank heaven firefighters in Tyler County did not give in to their first impulse on Saturday and Sunday. When they see a fire, it is near-instinct for them to do all they can to put it out. Had they attempted to do so during the weekend, some of them might have been hurt or killed.

It was the largest, most dangerous conflagration many people have ever seen — a blaze fed by gasoline from a tank designed to hold a million gallons of fuel. Dominion Energy, which owns the tank, has not revealed how much was in it.

In addition to the decision to hold back and merely keep the flames from spreading, the tank’s location, beside the Ohio River in southern Tyler County, was fortuitous. Had it been located in a populated area or even one with more industrial equipment nearby, the damage and danger to people could have been greater.

All in all, everyone got lucky, in a way.

What happened? No one is certain, though there has been speculation the fire resulted from the storage tank being struck by lightning.

If so, the question of why safeguards against lightning strikes did not protect the tank. A Dominion Energy spokeswoman has said the tank was designed to comply with National Fire Protection Association and American Petroleum Institute standards. They included protection from lightning.

State, federal and company investigators are looking into what caused the fire. Let us hope they get answers quickly — and that, if necessary, appropriate action is taken to safeguard other, similar fuel storage tanks.

Letting the fire burn itself out was a wise decision. But should a similar situation occur in the future, firefighters may have no choice but to attack the blaze — and that could result in a tragedy.