Suspicious Fire At Wash. Fuel Distribution Center Releases Oil Into Spokane River - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Suspicious Fire At Wash. Fuel Distribution Center Releases Oil Into Spokane River

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ An enormous fire destroyed buildings at a fuel distribution center, sending thousands of gallons of gasoline, diesel fuel and other petroleum products into storm sewers and the Spokane River, officials said Tuesday.

A day after the blaze rocked Whitley Fuel LLC with several explosions, damaging surrounding businesses and vehicles with its flames, the state Department of Ecology tried to assess the contamination Tuesday.

``We have no idea how much oil escaped,'' said Jani Gilbert, an Ecology spokeswoman. Crews were using a vacuum truck to suck oil out of sewers, she said.

A helicopter was hired to fly along the Spokane River on Tuesday, looking for pooled pockets of oil, Gilbert said. Crews were also walking along the river looking for oil.

The fire, which investigators called suspicious, continued to burn Tuesday morning, although it was no longer in danger of spreading, fire officials said.

Specialized trucks from Spokane International Airport and Fairchild Air Force Base spread foam on the flames. Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries.

The fire was extremely dangerous, as the center's contents included gasoline, diesel fuel, racing fuel, motor oil, hydraulic transmission, heavy lubricant oil and other substances.

More than a dozen vehicles in parking areas were destroyed. A fuel tank and a semi-truck pulling a tandem double fuel trailer were also destroyed.

About 100 firefighters were able to confine the blaze within the area around three main buildings.

``The heroics and aggressiveness by the Spokane firefighters cannot be overstated,'' Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said. ``Without their cooperation and professionalism, this incident would likely have turned into a catastrophic event with enormous loss.''

The cause of the fire, which did at least $10 million in damage, remains under investigation, the Spokane Fire Department said. Federal arson investigators and Spokane police said they were treating the area as a crime scene.
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