Firefighters douse flaming propane tanker

Thursday, August 9, 2007
Firefighters from Chaffee, Whitewater, Gordonville and Delta responded to a propane tanker that caught fire Wednesday morning after a delivery on County Road 220, east of Blomeyer, Mo. Here, firefighters cooled the tanker after the fire had been put out. (Fred Lynch)

A propane tanker caught fire Wednesday morning when a fill hose separated from the valve stem following a delivery on County Road 220.

Firefighters responding to the call used a cautious approach to the blaze when initial reports said the tanker was engulfed. "We had announced we were going to stop a half-mile back and assess the situation," said John Sachen, the incident commander for the Delta Fire Protection District. "On the way in, we did not see evidence of a large fire."

A three-person crew of firefighters advanced under a shield of water from a high-pressure hose to shut off the valve feeding the ruptured hose, Sachen said.

An excess flow valve, designed to cut the flow of propane out of the 2,400-gallon tank when an unusually large amount of gas is released, worked as designed, Sachen said. But it did not completely stop the flow of gas from the truck, allowing flames about 3 feet high to scorch the right rear quarter of the tank.

Driver Larry Meyer had just finished making a delivery at 780 County Road 220 and was about 100 yards away from the tank he had filled when he noticed the fire.

Firefighters from the Whitewater, Chaffee and Gordonville fire departments responded to provide assistance. With the possibility of the tank rupturing as it heated, firefighters were prepared to withdraw at a moment's notice, Sachen said.

"We were committed to abandoning the scene if there was a risk of explosion," Sachen said.

The tanker truck started its daily deliveries from the Co-op Service Center in Jackson and contained about 240 gallons of liquid propane when the fire started, said Jim Hope of the service center. The delivery on County Road 220 was Meyer's last scheduled stop of the day.

The safety devices on the truck designed to prevent a major release of gas in the event of an accident worked as designed, Hope said.

While the exact causes of the rupture and subsequent fire are unknown, Sachen said, it is likely the rupture occurred as a result of the movement of the truck, with that same movement either causing a friction spark or friction heat that was enough to ignite the gas.

335-6611, extension 126

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