Bovoni gas station destroyed in explosion
Published: September 16, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The cause and origin of a massive fire that engulfed and destroyed the Gas Works independent gas station in Bovoni on Saturday night still is under investigation, according to Daryl George, the assistant director of the V.I. Fire Service.
A crew of investigators remained on the scene Sunday to sift through the rubble of the station, which was the only structure involved in the fire.
The Fire Service took an initial statement from one of the employees at the station when the blaze started, but she was in "a state of shock" and more follow-up interviews will be needed, George said.
There were no fatalities and only two people suffered injuries following a series of explosions that rocked the gas station, which was open at the time, and a massive fireball erupting from the first explosion. Firefighters responded to a 911 call at 8:34 p.m., after one of the main storage tanks at the facility had exploded, George said.
After two and a half hours, the fire was significantly contained, and at about 12:40 a.m., it was completely extinguished, according to George.
The Fire Service coordinated with VITEMA, the V.I. Police Department, private water truck haulers, EMS, the Public Works Department, the V.I. Port Authority and St. Thomas Rescue to close roads, evacuate residents of nearby homes in Nadir and to treat and supply the 34 firefighters while they fought the blaze.
The first phase of the fight involved a defensive strategy of cooling fuel tanks so they would not ignite and closing off the perimeter of the Bovoni dump to the fire to prevent the spread to the acres of waste material, George said.
Once on the scene, firefighters encountered several "after explosions," with about three explosions occurring in the back of the building.
However, no firefighters were injured, George said.
Once the Port Authority had brought its airplane crash units containing foam and once water companies had provided ample water to combat the blaze, the firefighters went on the offense, attacking and diminishing the fire with the full force of the gathered resources, George said.
"We have foam but for a fuel depot of this size, we needed a multitude of foam, which the Port Authority supplied from its crash trucks, because they would be used to fight jet fuel fires," George said. Foam is helpful in combatting fires feeding on oil or gasoline because it more effectively deprives the chemically-based fires of oxygen, according to George.
Two people were injured, both employees of the station, which was open when the fire ignited, according to Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr.
One employee suffered burns and one employee suffered scrapes, cuts and bruises when jumping a fence to help the first employee run from the blaze, Greaux said.
According to a press release from VITEMA, one of the injured persons suffered burns to 18 percent of his body and was transported to Schneider Hospital for treatment.
About 125 emergency services personnel responded in all, as did Gov. John deJongh Jr., Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. and Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe.
George said the Arson and Prevention Unit would be working intensively to figure out the cause of the fire, but because of the size and complexity of the incident, he did not expect a conclusion any time soon.
George said the police department closed roads leading into the area from both directions.
Greaux said residents were given the all-clear to return to their homes at about 11:30 p.m.
George said the remaining fuel in the station's unignited tanks and trucks had been diluted with water, and does not pose a danger at this time.
According to George, the operation represented model levels of interagency coordination and it was because of the swift, combined efforts of all responders that the fire was contained to the gas station without further explosions. Had the dump ignited, he said, the fire could have raged indefinitely.
"What we did last night is we came together as a multi-agency task force, and we got the job done. The Fire Service has been practicing and initiating this policy of coordination for a long time," George said.
- Contact Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email email@example.com.