Highway closed by dramatic tanker fire|
|It could have been far worse.|
That was the message from city of Antigo Fire Chief Jon Petroskey and Rural Fire Control Chief Neal Wozniak on Friday, after a propane tanker fire that closed down Highway 45 just south of the city limits for several hours.
Safety features on the tanker, plus the professional response of Rural Fire Control, the lead department, mutual aid units and the police and Langlade County Sheriff’s Department, kept a bad situation from becoming worse.
“It was a very bad situation potentially,” Petroskey said, citing the number of homes in the area and the high traffic count of motorists traveling north on Highway 45 for the weekend.
The incident was reported just before the noon hour, when the driver of a propane delivery truck operated by Draeger Propane noticed smoke rolling out from under the vehicle’s hood.
The driver, Larry Schmoll of Deerbrook, quickly pulled off and emptied his extinguisher into the cavity, but flames and smoke continued to roll.
Emergency crews quickly responded from Rural Fire Control, the city and town of Antigo.
Petroskey and Wozniak said several factors worked in firefighters’ favor. The truck was returning from a delivery, and was carrying only about 100 gallons of propane, and safety mechanisms on the tanker worked correctly and vented the gas, preventing an inferno.
There were two small explosions, he said, caused by the safety mechanism on the tank releasing and perhaps fuel in the vehicle, but nothing serious.
Residents from two nearby homes were contacted and evacuated.
Crews stood by and allowed the tanker to burn, another safety precaution, the chief said, since pouring cold water on a hot surface could have caused the tank to breech and perhaps create a fireball.
Crews remained on scene and the road was closed and traffic rerouted by police and sheriff personnel for several hours. The scene was cleared by about 2:30 p.m., Petroskey said, and Langlade County highway officials examined the road for damage, which was minor.
“All of the emergency agencies did exactly what they were trained to do and the safety equipment in the tanker worked the way it should,” the chiefs said.
A blazing propane truck closed Highway 45 for several hours Friday afternoon. It could have been far worse.
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