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Flammable Liquid Highway Tanker Fires

     There are many examples of flammable Liquid Highway Tanker Fires on the internet. The one I responded to was July 15th 2009 in Hazel Park, Michigan. This particular crash and spill fire occurred around 1530 in the afternoon. We were returning from a CO detector run in the vicinity when we heard Hazel Park call for a car fire on I-75. Even though MSP has cameras all around the 696/I75 interchange, they seem to frequently get the location incorrect. Since my driver and I were very close to the I-75 on ramp, and we assumed a wrong location, and it also was assumed it may have been in Royal Oak, and we would be the first truck in anyway, we decided to go take a look.

     Upon turning onto the nearby on ramp, the typical massive black hydrocarbon plume was clearly visible from North of 11 mile road. This was easily two [2] miles North of the actual incident. By the time we reached the scene, I heard Hazel Park Fire on the road, responding with an Engine and ambulance. This by the way is the typical response for a car fire with injuries. However, I was on scene and such was not the case. I immediately informed my dispatch that this scene was a fully involved 48’ gasoline hauling tractor-trailer, underneath the 9 mile road overpass. Additionally requesting that the Hazel Park Fire Chief be notified of this incident. From the perspective of confinement this scene was located in a perfect spot. The natural swale of the freeway was at its lowest point and the only direct exposure was the unfortunate overpass. The fact that the sewerage drains could not be sealed due to the heat and fire proximity became the largest confinement challenge. This scene continued through-out the afternoon, night, and early morning of the next day.

     As has been mentioned in previous articles, the key to extinguishment with these fires is large scale Foam operations, such as those for Tank Farm incidents. The problem becomes having this type of equipment available. Almost all suburban Departments cannot support these operations in equipment purchases for one of these “once in a lifetime scenarios”. The only possible solution to already existing fire apparatus could be to retrofit existing aerials with Foam “eduction” capabilities. Often, these specialized expenditures are not on the priority list of most suburban departments. Rightly so, departments need to concentrate their limited funds with the majority “type” of incidents they will respond to. Departments with nearby accessible resources for these incidents are often the only choice. Be advised that even with large scale Foam extinguishment, that 2nd phase of cleaning up the hazardous, flammable liquid then begins.

     Haz-Mat Teams with air-aspirating Foam hand lines can then be expected to continue cooling and blanket the remaining spillage after the massive fire is extinguished. The 3rd phase of picking up the liquid mixture can then begin by your Haz Mat Team members, or chosen environmental contractor.

                                                            Haz Mat Mike

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