Marietta Times- April 24, 2009
By Justin McIntosh
Just before noon Thursday,
temperatures reached 60 degrees, there wasn’t a cloud in the blue sky and a
light wind breezed through the fields along Ohio 7 north of Marietta.
It was a beautiful day for two Charleston,
W. Va., welders to lay a piece of 4-foor by 8-foot metal down on top of an oil
It was also just the conditions
needed to start a fire in the tank, seriously burning the younger of the two
welders and sending the other one to the hospital as a precaution.
The fire burned for about six
hours before it was final extinguished Thursday evening through the efforts of
nearly 20 fire departments, some from as far as 40 to 50 miles away, as well as
representatives of several area industrial facilities.
The exact cause of the fire
wasn’t know Thursday evening, but Bob Gers, state manager with the Ohio Oil
Gathering Corp., 34570 State Route 7, Newport, Where the blaze took place, said
the company believes a spark from the piece of metal might have caused the
“There wasn’t even an open flame
(from the welders). But there are enough vapors (to start a fire from a spark)
on a warm day like this” Gerst said.
Welding Inc., of Charleston, W.
Va. which employed the two worker, had contracted with Ohio Oil Gathering Corp.
for the job.
Welding Inc. employee Joshua
Melton, 19, of Elkview, W. Va., was taken to Marietta Memorial Hospital before
being flown by medical helicopter to Cabell-Huntington Hospital in West
Virginia, according to Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Gerst said the other
worker was not seriously injured.
The incident unfolded Thursday
after the Washington County Sheriff’s Office received an emergency call from
the oil company at 11:55 a.m., stating there was an injury at the sire about seven
to 10 miles north of Marietta between Reno and Newport.
The Newport Volunteer Fire
Department responded and by 12:07 p.m., the sheriff’s office received another
call, this time from the fire department, stating there was a fire that needed
to be put out.
Fire departments and emergency
personnel from throughout Washington County and beyond, both Ohio and West
Virginia, responded to the scene.
Newport fire Chief Steve Foutty
said a number of departments brought foam to the scene to help deal with the fire,
which was burning oil in the tank.
“Oil will float on water and foam
provides a membrane that will cut off the oxygen,” He said.
Marietta fire Chief Tom Dempsey
said the approximately 34,000-gallon tank was filled with about a foot of crude
oil on the surface and 4 to 5 feet of brine, and oil byproduct, underneath, and
that the oil and some wood beams holding up the roof of the tank were alight.
Later, Gerst said the tank was
filled with brine only and that the oil was stored in a separate tank. Reno fire
Chief Dan Ritchey said Thursday evening that there was oil in the burning tank.
Dempsey said because the wood
beams were under the roof, it was difficult to fight the blaze.
“The wood beams were soaked with
years and years of oil residue, so it’s tough,” he said.
Foutty said foam was sprayed into
the tank from an aerial truck provided by Cytec’s Willow Island facility.
Once the roof collapsed, it
allowed firefighters to spray the foam directly on the blaze, Ritchey said.
“we had to wait for it to burn thought,
‘cause it wasn’t stable enough to get up on it and cut through” like a house
roof,” he said.
Firefighters spent most of the
afternoon spraying water on the edges of the tank to keep it cool, and inside a
hatch to the container to generate steam in order to smother the flames of the
Beams, Dempsey said.
Every 20 or 30 minutes, the fire
would flare up again out of one of two holes in the structure’s roof. Fire
trucks left the scene just as regularly to refill their tanks with water.
Across the road from the fire
Nikki Sunderman, 25, of 101 Bells Run Road, Newport, sat on her porch, watching
the scene as her children and those of a friend played in the mud. Sunderman
said she got a phone call from a friend while she was taking a nap.
“My friend told me to come
outside and see if everything was OK,” she said. “We came out and saw the fire
and heard the sirens. I wasn’t very worried, though.”
Sheriff’s Capt. Jon Copernoll
said there have been other fires at these storage tanks over the years, but
those were mostly caused by lightning