Diesel fuel tank fire in Glenpool closes Highway 75 and forces evacuation of homes

Tuesday, April 8th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A storage tank continues to burn at 131st Street between Highway 75 and Elwood in Glenpool. Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel caught fire and exploded at around nine o'clock Monday night.

The roads in the area that are open are moving slowly.
  • Authorities have closed off Highway 75 in both directions
  • Tuesday morning, residents living in the area from 121st Street South and 141st Street South between Elwood and Highway 75 were asked to evacuate their homes.
  • Glenpool Schools closed on Tuesday because of the fire
Shelters were set up at:
  • Faith Free Will Baptist Church - 596 E 141st in Glenpool
  • First Baptist Church - Main and Broadway in Glenpool
  • First United Methodist Church - 1401 E Taft in Sapulpa

For those interested in monitoring pollution levels in the Tulsa area, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality publishes a daily Air Quality Report.

The News On 6 learned that ConocoPhillips has hired Texas based Williams Fire and Hazard Control, to consult on putting the fire out. They are best known for putting out the biggest tank fire in history - the Orion, Louisiana refinery fire in June of 2001.

David White, publisher of Industrial Fire World Magazine: told The News On 6 that the Glenpool fire is a "cover floating roof tank fire", which are extremely difficult to extinguish. He believes Williams Fire and Hazard Control is the only company in the world that has the expertise to fight this type of fire.

It must have been a memorable sight for people in Glenpool and drivers along Highway 75 - the blast sent flames leaping hundreds of feet into the sky. The bright orange flames were a stark contrast to the already dark skies made even darker by clouds of thick black diesel smoke.

Video from Ground Level
Video from Sky 6

Sean Parsons, Witness: "I was working on the computer and just - windows shook. Actually if it wasn't a clear sky I would have thought lightning struck behind my house. It was pretty loud."

Conoco-Phillips officials say the fire started during the delivery of 8,400 barrels of diesel fuel. Static electricity is the likely cause of the explosion. Several times throughout the night, it looked like the fire would burn itself out. Then the wind would pick up. That meant more flames and more smoke.

Firefighters used a containment strategy on the fire. The goal was to keep water on other nearby tanks to keep them cool, to keep them from igniting. Click here for a USGS satellite view of the tank farm. The fire is happening in the tanks located in the far lower right quadrant of the satellite image.

David Ladik, Conoco-Phillips: "All efforts at this time are to control and contain the fire to the one tank which is tank 11."

Sean Parsons: "I drive by those tanks everyday, I know how close they are. I was kind of concerned."

Explorer Pipeline Company of Tulsa's 1,400-mile, 28-inch main pipeline was shut down as a precaution as crews from several fire departments worked to control the blaze. All ConocoPhillips personnel were accounted for and no one was hurt.