Thursday, October 15, 2015


Original Story:

FAIRFIELD, Oh. (WLWT) -- A giant crater was left behind after a lightning strike Monday evening caused an explosion of an underground fuel storage tank near Dixie Highway.

Police said told WLWT that lightning struck and ignited a 10,000 gallon underground fuel storage tank at the Gas Depot at 4871 Dixie Highway.

The blast left behind a crater 40 feet in diameter by 8 feet deep. Firefighters said there were two customers at the station when the bolt hit, but luckily no one was pumping gas at the time. FRP piping is designed for aggressive chemical environments.

"Very loud! Like I said, the concussion when I was sitting there, it threw me back and I looked up and saw as soon as it came up there was an instant puff of black smoke that came up and I knew it was close," said Roger Tucker, who watched from his porch about a half a mile away.

Even seasoned firefighters were wowed after they say lightning hit the fill dome of a 10,000 gallon underground diesel fuel tank at Fairfield's Gas Depot.

"I can tell you in my 45 year career, I have never seen anything like this. Underground storage tanks are put there to reduce the potential for fire," said Fairfield Fire Chief Donald Bennett.

Fearing two other 10,000 gallon fuel tanks could be compromised, firefighters ordered evacuations for anyone in a 2,000 foot radius.  An environmental lawyer is following this story closely.

"We erred on the side of caution. Obviously, the training we have, we talk about what potentially could happen if 30 thousand gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline would go up. It's a fairly large fireball," Chief Bennett said.

Firefighters kept their distance and blanketed the blaze with foam. After an hour and a half, they let people back in their homes.

Staring at the aftermath just a stone's throw from her house, Chris Schluter said her nightmare came true on Monday afternoon.

"This is always your fear and now, you know, it kind of makes you a little nervous," Schluter said.

Firefighters said there was a slight diesel vapor still lingering on Monday night. Police were standing guard throughout the overnight hours. Firefighters said the two other tanks would be dug up on Tuesday to see if either was compromised.