Lightning Strike Causes Oil Tank Fire

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By Nick Hausen
By Benjy Jeffords

SALINE COUNTY -- Neighbors woke early Sunday to an explosion and flames shooting more than fifty feet into the air after a lightning strike caused oil tanks off Cook Road north of Eldorado to suddenly explode.

"Four o'clock in the morning and my wife beats on the door and wakes me up and says, you've got to look at this," said neighbor Chuck Drone. "I walked out that door and I couldn't believe it."

Drone has lived down the street from the site for more than 20 years and hasn't had any problems with the tanks before.

"You smell them sometimes and our dog got out one time and got in the corner of it and was covered in oil," explained Drone.

Monday afternoon, the tanks were left smoldering. At the time of the explosion, the tanks were nearly full. In those types of situations, there's little fire fighters can do besides contain the flames.

"You just make sure for number one that you're fighting it from up wind, and you've got to watch getting in too close because of wind shifts and so on," said Eldorado Fire Chief Mike McKinnies. "You could end up burning your guys up and not be able to retreat out fast enough."

Six of the eight tanks are now gone. While McKinnies says oil tank fires are uncommon, his department has seen two in the last two years.

"I've been here for 30 years, and we've had two large oil field batteries that actually caught on fire back to back, and I haven't had anything prior to that," explained McKinnies.

The oil tanks are owned by Campbell Enterprises out of Carmi. We reached out to the company today but did not hear back.

Marion Regional
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