Fighting the Fire

Incident Command

Incident Command was set up at a location approximately 1000 feet to the south west of the fire. Operating from here was the Sunoco Incident Commander, Operations Co-ordinator and Fire Chief accompanied by the Fire Chiefs from all the mutual aid companies.

Cooling Exposures

In the early hours of the fire, exposure cooling was performed as indicated in the above diagram. When the wind shifted at daybreak, foam was applied from the upwind (west) side of the tank.

(Photo from Channel 7 WXYZ-TV Detroit)

Seen here at the top of the picture, the highest priority equipment exposure was 33 tank which lies 120 feet to the south east. Water streams are being applied directly onto the west wall of the tank and onto the top of the roof, cascading down the other side. In addition, a very effective water curtain was set up between the two tanks.

Other than the fire tank, the only other damage were these small spots of blistered paint on the side of 33 tank - mute testimony to the effectiveness of the cooling operation.

The Foam Attack

The foam attack started at 07:20 in the morning, almost 7 hours into the fire. Seen here applying foam solution are two 2000 gpm foam cannons from Nova. Both streams are applied at the same location to ensure penetration through the 70 mph thermal updraft from the fire and to establish an area of control or
Footprint TM within the tank. Once established, this area was expanded to cover the entire surface of the fuel.

This type of foam application is a trademark of

Within 15 minutes, the foam application brought the fire to a 95% control point.

(Photo from Fox 2 WJBK-TV Detroit)

As seen in this aerial view, several stubborn pockets of fire continued to burn for 2 hours after the 95% control point and additional foam had to be applied constantly to maintain the foam blanket. In order to extinguish these fires, one of the foam cannons was relocated to the north east (marked by red X) where it was able to use the remaining high section of the tank wall as a back splash to produce a thickly aerated foam blanket and completly smother the fire (as seen below).

Over the next two days, foam was continuously applied to prevent the release of vapours from the tank. A total of 3,500 gallons of concentrate was used in this effort.

When all was said and done, approximately 10 feet remained in the tank.

Final Tally

The fire fighting effort involved:

7 fire departments
150 fire fighters
13,500 gallons of foam concentrate
12,000 - 15,000 gallons of water per minute at the height of the fire
8,000,000 gallons of water in total

...... and many boxes of dry socks

Extinguishing a fire like this requires

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