BROOKINGS – Brookings and Aurora firefighters halted a fire in a fuel-filled tank truck on U.S. Highway 14 Saturday morning, containing the blaze to the semi’s cab.
It was a dangerous situation that could have easily gotten out of hand, said Deputy Chief Pete Bolzer, but it was quickly brought under control by quick-thinking firefighters with site control assistance by a group of area law enforcement officers.
The Brookings firefighters got the alarm call at 10:55 a.m. Saturday, and the first units were on the scene by 11:03, Bolzer said.
An oil tanker owned by the Howes Oil Company of Sioux Falls was westbound on Highway 14 Saturday morning, just west of Voss’s Corner, when the driver noticed flames coming from the engine compartment.
The truck had apparently blown an oil line in and started a fire in the engine compartment of the vehicle. The driver attempted to douse the flames with a portable extinguisher but was unable to get the fire under control and called for help.
Bolzer said when the first Brookings team arrived, the flames had already spread into the cab of the semi and it was a very dangerous situation, but the firefighters were able to quickly knock the fire down.
The deputy chief said the fire never made it to the tank portion of the rig, which was filled with 3,000 gallons of diesel and another 5,000 gallons of gasoline.
Bolzer had high praise for those first to reach the scene. “They did an extremely good job,” he said.
While the fire didn’t reach the tank, there was a diesel leak from the engine that had to be contained, since the accident took place near a creek. Firefighters put down absorbent materials and contained the spill.
Besides his own teams, who “stepped up to the plate” in a risky situation, Bolzer commended the Brookings police, who arrived to offer traffic control assistance and shut down both eastbound and westbound lanes of traffic.
“I credit the Brookings Police Department for some quick action in shutting down the highway and keeping the public safety away,” Bolzer said.
“Not only was it quick thinking, it was exactly the right action.”
Bolzer said four Brookings firefighting units responded to the fire alarm, and he called in another team from Aurora for backup.
“On the scene, we were able to size things up, and it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought (on getting the alarm call). The cab was pretty much intact,” Bolzer noted.
The firefighters and Brookings police were joined at the scene by the Brookings ambulance, the state Highway Patrol and the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office, all of whom assisted.
The driver was apparently uninjured, and while there was significant damage to the cab and engine of the semi, the tank was not touched by the fire.
The firefighters were at the site of the fire for about an hour.