Crews are continually hosing the tanker down with 5,000 gallons of water a minute to keep the tank cool and prevent the fire from spreading. There is a possibility the tanker could explode if fumes are allowed to build up. Flames have been seen reaching 15 feet in the air.
The fire is getting as hot as 1,200 degrees, the tanker itself is staying around 300 degrees. Firefighters who were onscene for the San Bruno explosion and fire in the Bay Area have come to Lincoln to help crews and share their experiences.
Chief Witt said although that was their initial decision, they flew in experts from Texas to assess the situation and make recommendations. The team was onscene Tuesday night and practiced their plan on other tankers. Although the plan may seem unique, Chief Witt says the experts “provide me the confidence that they know what they are doing.”
Update: The Plan: Experts are recommending fire crews drill a hole into a burning propane tanker, remove what’s left of the fuel, and burn it off in an open-air pit.
Wednesday afternoon, teams wearing protective gear will drill into the 29 k gallon tanker and remove the outer skin. They will weld a hose to the tanker, and start removing fuel. Meanwhile, crews will dig a large pit nearby, where the fuel will be emptied and set on fire. The fumes from the open-air pit will be allowed to burn off, and fire officials said it could cause some alarm from neighbors who may see a large plume of smoke into the evening.
Update: The East Bay Incident Management Team was activated in the past 24 hrs to provide assistance at the Nicolaus Incident in Lincoln, CA.
Members of the EB-IMT at the Nicolaus Incident are from @AlamedaCoFire, Oakland, Moraga-Orinda, Hayward, El Cerrito, Richmond, Cal Fire, EBRPD & Fremont Fire Departments.
EB-IMT Incident Commander is Alameda County Fire Department Deputy Chief David Lord
|Nicolaus Incident in Lincoln, CA.|
Closures/Evacuations: Around 10,000 people were forced from their homes Tuesday night because of the risk of explosion from the tanker. Highway 65 is still closed in both directions from Wise Road to 5th Street, and local roads in Lincoln near the fire scene remain blocked off.
Initial Attack: Firefighters were called to the site of the blaze on 9th Street at a propane distribution center about 11:30 Tuesday by a 911 call. Lincoln Fire Chief Whitt was first on the scene where flames was streaming from the tanker car,
Lincoln firefighters immediately set up fire hoses that showered the rail car throughout the night without having to have firefighters next to the streaming nozzles.
"We were able to pump a lot of water on these tank cars to get them cooled off," he said
Attack plan: The method being used was developed after consultation with experts from Houston, Texas, specialists in putting out fuel fires who flew to Lincoln last night.
The plan outlined today includes digging a pond with a bulldozer near the burning tanker, hot tap" the burning rail car, then fuel will be "offloaded" into the pond and burned off.
"They are going to do this while the fire is still active on the tank," said Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt. "It's called a hot tap."
"If we don't put copius amounts of water to keep the tanker's integrity secure then we can have catastrophic failure of the tank and a very large problem on our hands," he said.
He praised his firefighters for keeping the tanker from deteriorating. He said earlier reports from an official that the tanker was cracking and in danger of failure soon were not true.
He said the incident will be handled within the next 24-48 hours. He believes that by late Wednesday morning the incident would be winding down.
Injuries: One employee was burned.
Cause: A cause has not been determined.
Problems: The burning tank car, which contained 30,000 gallons of propane, was attached to two other cars that also were filled with propane. In total, there is about 170,000-500,000 gallons of propane in the yard.
Firefighters did not want to put the fire out and have propane leak into the neighborhood where it could find an ignition source and catch fire.