Clean-up of fuel-tank explosion to involve multiple agencies

Officials continued to investigate the scene Tuesday where a fuel-tank explosion forced evacuations and left a crater in the ground during Monday evening’s storms. GREG LYNCH/ STAFF
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Officials continued to investigate the scene Tuesday where a fuel-tank explosion forced evacuations and left a crater in the ground during Monday evening’s storms. GREG LYNCH/ STAFF

Cleaning up the three fuel tanks compromised by Monday’s storms could be a complex process involving multiple agencies, officials said Tuesday.

Lightning from Monday’s storms sparked a fuel tank explosion at the Dixie Gas Depot at Dixie Highway and Winton Road, sending a fireball skyward and leaving behind a 40-foot-wide crater.

Fairfield fire Chief Don Bennett said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, state fire marshal, the groundwater consortium and the city’s utility department will all be involved during the cleanup of the site.

“Our greatest hope is the majority of the product burned away from the fire,” Bennett said.

And based on the size of the fire, “we think it’s very likely that a lot of that burned away,” he said.

Only the smell of burnt fiberglass, the material used to make the tanks, could be detected Tuesday, Bennett said.

Around 5:50 p.m. Monday, emergency crews were dispatched to the corner of Dixie Highway and Winton Road after the reported lightning strike that left only a crater where three fuel tanks — one with diesel fuel and two with gasoline — were buried underground.

The city of Hamilton’s fire department assisted Fairfield.

Fairfield emergency crews evacuated a quarter-mile radius, which included a residential area west of Dixie Highway and several businesses toward the east.

Bennett said cleanup will involved a licensed contractor in underground fuel tank installation and removal to oversee the excavation of the site. Excavation of the site is expected to start this afternoon, and could take days to complete.

Then soil testing could take weeks, Bennett said.

Cost estimates were not immediately known Tuesday morning, as far as how much damage was created by the lightning strike, or the cleanup.

Residents, some who live blocks away from the site, said they were rocked by the explosion.

Fire marshal office spokesman William Krugh said an incident of lightning striking a gas station and igniting underground fuel tanks is very rare and “our office isn’t sure it ever happened in Ohio.”

This story contains reporting from our news partner WCPO 9 On Your Side.