Hutchinson County Firemen fighting long battle against tank blaze

     Fire fighters from around the county have been battling a tank fire since early Wednesday night. Danny Richards, Hutchinson County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator, told the News-Herald that a 911 report was received around 9:30p.m. on Wednesday evening in reference to a tank battery fire on Highway 280 east of Borger near Watkins Camp.

     The Borger Fire Department was dispatched to the scene, but the battery of three tanks, operated by Traditions Oil and Gas, was already fully engulfed in flames and one tank hand exploded. The Hutchinson County FD, Crutch Ranch FD, Skellytown FD, and as of 11:00a.m. Thursday morning the Phillips Petroleum Fire responders have joined the effort. 

     Richards says that the fire was contained last night, but due to the nature of burning oils the decision was made to allow the fire to burn itself out. But at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday a second tank exploded, knocking nearby firefighters to the ground and releasing a fresh supply of crude oil, increasing the fire's range and the smoke column. No injuries to the firemen were reported, and Richards said it was a "very very close call," and that the right training and equipment was crucial in handling the situation properly. 

     Richards also addressed concerns about the nearby Spring Creek school but stated that the school was in no danger at this time. He did tell the News-Herald that the responders are closely monitoring wind and weather conditions and if a danger presents, the school will be evacuated.

     With the concerns over Spring Creek Elementary and the possibility of the third tank in the battery exploding, responders requested help from the Phillips Petroleum Fire Response Unit, which has access to advanced equipment used to battle industrial type oil fires. The unit arrived on scene right around 11:00 a.m. and Richards said it would take about an hour to set up the equipment and that the fire could be out as early as 12:00 p.m.

     Traditions Oil and Gas has been contacted and will speak with reporters later this afternoon.

     UPDATE: According to an update on the Hutchinson County LEPC Emergency Notification Facebook page, the fire has been extinguished. The update, posted just before 1:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon, stated that, with the assistance of the industrial fire unit from Phillips, the blaze had been extinguished and that Highway 280 has been reopened to normal traffic.

      The danger to Spring Creek Elementary has also passed and the school is no longer on standby for evacuation.