A large fire outside a diesel fuel storage tank at the Magellan Midstream Partners fuel terminal here was safely extinguished after burning more than seven hours and sending up a cloud of hazardous black smoke on Sunday, Feb. 18.
Shortly after 5 a.m., dozens of firefighters were dispatched to the blaze at the terminal at 902 Main Ave. E., Assistant Police Chief Jerry Boyer said.
The fire occurred on piping connections next to the storage tank, Magellan spokesman Bruce Heine said. About 1,200 gallons of diesel fuel leaked or burned as a result of the fire, he said.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known. No one was reported injured, authorities said.
Photos taken by a law enforcement drone show one face of the white tank was heavily scorched and blackened by the blaze.
From Main Avenue and Ninth Street East, flames could be seen among the cluster of tanks through much of the morning. Meanwhile, thick billows of greasy black smoke could be seen for miles as they rose from the tank farm and were blown by the wind in a plume south across the city.
Authorities initially issued a shelter-in-place advisory for anyone within a 5-mile radius, and nearby residents received automated phone calls alerting them to the situation. That advisory was lifted shortly before 1 p.m., Boyer said.
Police and fire officials said the smoke was “hazardous, but not toxic.”
Fargo Cass Public Health said excessive exposure to the smoke could cause irritation to the nose, throat, lungs and respiratory tract. The smoke was especially a danger to young children, the elderly, and people with respiratory conditions, officials said.
Public health officials monitoring air quality eventually determined that it was “good,” Boyer said at a news conference at West Fargo City Hall about 1 p.m.
Fighting fire with foam
Each tank at the terminal has a dike system around it, and firefighters reinforced the dike around the affected tank to contain foam and liquid once it was used on the flames, Boyer said.
Firefighters began applying about 500 gallons of foam and 400,000 gallons of water to the fire shortly before noon. The change was immediate, with the black smoke quickly turning to white as the chemicals and water knocked down the blaze.
West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern said the blaze was extinguished by about 12:10 p.m., though Boyer said firefighters dealt with a flare-up before the fire was officially out. The blaze was considered extinguished at about 12:45 p.m., Heine said.