Update: Vendor trailer explodes at gas station
by The Press and Standard | May 31, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: May 30, 2018 at 10:18 am
Experience and luck played a part in limiting the results of a propane gas explosion inside a food vendor trailer traveling through Walterboro May 24.
“Everything went our way on this one,” Walterboro Fire Chief Wayne Lake said. There was a hydrant nearby, there was a good firefighter response, the trailer was not under the awning and no one was hurt by the flying debris, he said. “It could have gone sideways on us.”
When the trailer exploded at the Murphy’s gas station in the Walmart Plaza at 2100 Bells Highway shortly after 9 p.m., Lake was at home and heard the radio call.
When the call came in as a camper on fire near the gas pumps, Lake, who said he has “a habit of thinking about the worst case scenario. I thought this might not be good,” and began heading to the gas station.
When he arrived, he found flames from the burning trailer shooting higher than the awning over the fuel pumps, and the parking area littered with debris.
A large pickup truck had been towing the food vendor trailer from Florida to Myrtle Beach for Bike Week when the driver pulled off the interstate for fuel.
The driver was inside the station, paying for his diesel fuel, when he heard a loud noise. He went outside and found the large trailer engulfed in flames.
Firefighters suspect that one of the three 100-pound propane tanks inside the trailer started leaking, causing the trailer to fill up with propane.
Then something caused the gas fumes to ignite, causing the explosion that threw debris into the parking lot before the trailer was engulfed in flames.
The fire chief said the explosion and fire showed the potential disaster of storing propane canisters in an enclosed space, where leaking fumes can build up.
The first fire units, led by Captain Paul Seigler, immediately deployed two handlines: one sent water into the burning trailer and the other used its water supply to safeguard the gas station, fuel pumps and the man’s truck.
While firefighters were using the water from a pumper truck, members of the city police department, with help from a Colleton County Sheriff’s Office deputy, assumed the task of running approximately 300 feet of five-inch fire hose from a hydrant located on the west side of Fat Jack’s restaurant to one of the pumpers at the fire scene.
“They (city police officers) don’t mind helping us — that is what is so nice about our relationship,” Lake said. While firefighters are dealing with the flames, the police officers can be counted on to handle the hydrant hookup, bring firefighting equipment from the trucks to those fighting the blaze and man the firefighters’ rehab area where they go to rest and recover before heading back to the fire.
It works, he said, because the police officers can help at the fire scene until they are needed to handle a police call.
The firefighters who were using handlines to attack the flames spotted three 100-pound propane tanks in the trailer’s cooking area, and at least one appeared to be venting propane and feeding the fire.
Running that five-inch hose from the hydrant to the fire truck allowed command officers to pull the crew handling the handline further away from the burning trailer and begin using a deck gun on the pumper to continually spray cooling water onto the tanks to keep them from exploding.
After about an hour, firefighters were able to go back to using the handlines to extinguish the flames.
Fire Inspector Chris Cook said the employees at the gas station followed procedure and shut down the electrical supply to the fuel pumps.
Lake said the fire and police departments had approximately 15 members on the scene.
While the trailer was a total loss, Lake said damage to the station was contained to a portion of the roof overhang. The pickup truck that was towing the trailer and the fuel pumps it was parked beside were undamaged.
Firefighters were at the gas station for approximately two hours.