Residents praise firefighters after Oklahoma City warehouse fire

Saturday, January 15th 2005, 12:51 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A day after a five-alarm fire destroyed a warehouse at an oil company in southeast Oklahoma City, company employees and local residents praised firefighters.

The fire started before 7:45 a.m. Saturday at B&M Oil Co., 615 SE 30, in an 18,700-square-foot warehouse that housed 55-gallon barrels of oil and drums of methanol, ethanol, kerosene and other chemicals.

``I think they (firefighters) stayed on top of it and did an excellent job,'' said Mickey Reeder, operations manager for the oil company. ``I had two trucks that were right up against the building, and I did not lose one of them.''

No one was injured.

Fire Maj. Brian Stanaland said officials still did not know Sunday what started the blaze.

Reeder said the company lost 25 percent to 30 percent of the business and that could have been much worse had the fire reached additional tanks east of the warehouse.

Reeder said B&M Oil Co. would be open for business today, but would be working out of a warehouse the company bought three months ago at 1404 N Sooner Rd.

Bill and Louise LaPach were counting their blessings Sunday afternoon inside their house of 53 years across the street from the warehouse. Ice covered the trees in their yard. Firefighters sprayed the house to prevent it from catching fire.

Bill LaPach, 81, was at home with his grandchildren when the fire started.

He said he walked outside to get the morning paper when he noticed the flames. Soon, explosions from the warehouse were sending flames into the sky and over his house.

``I figured it would get to our house because the flames were way up there,'' Bill LaPach said.

Stanaland said the houses next to the warehouse would have ignited if the firefighters had not sprayed them.

The LaPach house was among 20 to 30 homes evacuated about 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Bill LaPach and his grandchildren were allowed to return late in the afternoon. All the evacuees were back by Sunday.

The LaPachs said they have been unable to pay for insurance on their house. They said that if they had lost their house, they would have lost everything they own.

``When you have lived here this long, you have everything set just the way you want it,'' Louise LaPach said. ``It would have been a huge loss.''

David Phillips, environmental unit supervisor with the Oklahoma City Public Works Department, said water used to fight the fire washed chemicals into nearby Lightning Creek, but the contamination was stopped before it reached the Oklahoma River. He said one fish had been found dead as a result of the chemicals.