Lightning cause of oil tank fires

PALESTINE Firefighters from multiple departments needed more than five hours to extinguish a blaze in southeastern Anderson County after four oil storage tanks caught on fire Thursday morning.Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor said the oil tanks’ fire on property located in the 3400 block of FM 2022, approximately 2 miles south of Slocum, was reported to authorities shortly after 8:15 a.m. Thursday.

By around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the sheriff said firefighters representing five different departments and representatives of a handful of other agencies had pooled resources to put the fire out.

No one was injured battling the fire, according to Taylor, who said the scene resembled “an inferno” at times.

The four tanks — which were owned by Don H. Wilson Inc. — each reportedly contained 300 barrels of oil for a total of 50,400 gallons, according to the sheriff.

“A thunderstorm had rolled through there earlier,” Taylor said. “Slocum Fire Chief Ben Missildine believed it might have been a grass fire that spread to the oil tanks. The grass fire was possibly started by lightning.”

Volunteer fire departments responding to the fire included Slocum, Elkhart, Tucker and Grapeland, in addition to the Palestine Fire Department, according to Taylor. Other agencies assisting included the Texas Forest Service, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, he added.

Anderson County Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Franklin was also at the scene, according to Taylor, in addition to representatives from the Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“We didn’t have to evacuate anyone,” Taylor said, “but we did notify a few folks living nearby…in case it (the fire) turned.”

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