Interview with City of Lamesa Fire Service Manager Kendall Amos along with morning after video

Photographer David Drummond's website with his account and more pictures

Chief Billy Goldfeder at Firefighter Close Calls alerted us to this amazing video from Thursday night. Here's what he wrote:

Lamesa and Andrews (Texas) Firefighters were operating at a tank fire last evening. They had water flowing, attempting to cool. At about 2 hours into it, a relief valve blew ...but then the tank and nearby tanks exploded and took off. The photographer was 200 yards away and a piece of 4" pipe about a foot and a half long with a cutoff valve on it came through the air in a high enough arc that it cleared the power lines next to him in impact the front of his vehicle, causing extensive damage.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries in the incident.

The video was shot by David Drummond who does storm chasing for KCBD-TV. It is believed lightning had hit the tank. Drummond wrote this on his website In The Vortex:

After chasing a wicked hail storm last night in Dawson County (it hailed for an hour and 15 minutes straight!) I heard the call go out for a tank battery fire that was most likely started by lightning. I thought it might make for some good news footage, but little did I know what was in store!

Here is some of the account of City of Lamesa Fire Service Manager Kendall Amos from KCBD-TV's website:

After two hours of fighting the blaze firefighters heard a hissing sound. "I was probably 20 yards from the front of the fire. I saw a couple of guys fall and I was running to try to help get them up," said Amos about the seconds following the explosion. Amos says the chain fence around the salt water disposal site shielded his men from flying debris. "Our people didn't get hit. Our trucks didn't get his. I can't believe it. It was like a grenade going off," said Amos.
Viewing a scene he describes as a war zone, Amos says it wasn't death that scared him. "Really what was going through my mind was not that I'm going to die, but that I'm going to get burned and have to live," he said.

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A refining industry expert on tank integrity that I showed this to replied: "The tank pressure vacuum vent may not have been up to snuff for a BLEVE, but there was also a problem with the frangible joint on the first tank that launched like a missile. The frangible joint on the second tank failed per design, thus that tank merely toppled over instead of launching like a rocket.

The fire response team may have focused totally on the tank fire started by the lightning strike (as seen by the water stream direction), and did not attempt cool the other tanks to prevent the BLEVE. "

I'm sure he wouldn't ever testify based on the video alone but the video says a lot about the physical condition and design of the tanks when exposed to the pressure of bleve conditions.

There are much more experienced tank fire trained guys than I am in the industry but I know our site's oil fire team would not have been happy without at least 12 -20 thousand GPM in play via at least one 8,000-10,000 thousand GPM monitors and assorted smaller monitors cooling all surrounding tanks to avoid bleve. Also water on the exterior of the burning tank to prevent wall slumping and spilling the burning contents around surrounding tanks. Cooling first, then, if there is enough remaining water resource and maybe AFFF foam, fight the tank fire. I don't believe our refining fire teams would have considered manual hand lines this close to a crowded tank situtaion, everyone would have been pulled back after monitors were set in place.

I realize not every location has all the water resources that the typical refinery or major tank farm can toss on a fire and you just do your best without risking life. Tanks are replaceable and you never know how a another business has maintained them or if they were properly inspected and set up with adequate PSVs and structural itegrity.

My work site likes to invite the local fire district crews in for live petroleum fire fighting on process and tank props to help them understand the swtich from the structural fire fighting mind set to the petroleum storage and process fire fighting tactics mind set. This arrangement works here because local air pollution authorities still allow local on site live training with burning diesel and gasoline so there is little additional training cost to the fire district. I encourange any depratment to approach local refining companies on this possiblity.
I think Justin will agree that while the potential is always there, a major blow out such as this is extremely rare compared to the number of fires caused by lightning in the West Texas, Eastern New Mexico area. I know when I lived in that part of the world, we worked more heater treater fires than on tank farms.

That being said, should they have thought about exposure cooling? Probably. Perhaps there was complacency because it was a "brine" disposal area, and didn't think about the probability of other substances and gasses being present. Thankfully, everyone went home, the fire went out, and hopefully some lessons have and will be learned after whatever investigation by the powers that be has been completed.
Justin, and others,

I was curious why Andrews was called. Did a little research and found out the boom truck was modified by the city of Andrews especially for tank fires. This apparatus is able to apply foam, and dry chemical. So someone has at least thought about this occurring.

After looking at the 2nd video shot by David the day after the fire, there is a shot of empty foam containers. Now whether they were applying foam before or after the BLEVE, I couldn't say. But the destruction is amazing.


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