Tank fire Being Investigated

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Carriere Volunteer Fire Department firefighters responded at 8:10 a.m. Sunday morning to a tank on fire at 247 Richardson-Ozona Rd. Upon arrival firefighters discovered a large, stationary steel tank engulfed in flames accompanied by heavy black smoke being released into the surrounding area.

Not knowing what chemicals the tank contained, firefighters initially handled the fire as a HAZMAT incident. This enabled them to identify any immediate life safety issues and to begin a preliminary investigation regarding what dangers the contents of the tank posed.

The property owner, whom Pearl River Countuy Fire Marshal Albert Lee would not identify, stated that the tank contained tar, but that she did not know how it caught on fire. Given this information, firefighters laid down a protective stream of water to prevent the adjoining woods from catching on fire.

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Lee and the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene since there was a question as to whether the fire, if intentionally set, was legal.

Earl Ethridge of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality was contacted regarding the legality of the fire, and he advised them that it was illegal. Firefighters then finished extinguishing the fire.

Lee said the fire was apparently set as Allen Hill, 49, tried to cut up the tank for scrap. Hill told Lee that he was unaware there was tar still in the tank, butpparently there was still solid tar residue in the tank, which caught fire after Hill left to go to the store.

DEQ instructed Hill that the tank should be crushed and scraped at a proper scrap yard and the surrounding dirt where the tar leaked out should also be taken to a proper dump site. No charges have been pressed at this time, but charges and fines could be pressed against Hill if DEQ’s orders are not followed, Lee said.

Lee asked residents to be careful and not burn tar products such as tires. DEQ regulates burning of tar products and residents can be fined for such practices.