Posted 3/20/13 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
A structure fire at Steve’s Sprayfoam Insulation, located at the junction of 12th Street Southeast and 11th Avenue Southeast, caused quite a scene on the morning of Tuesday, March 12.
According to the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department, the structure fire was reported at 9:25 a.m., and Jerry Samuelson, McKenzie County’s Emergency Manager states that by the time the call came in, the building was already taken over by flames.
“When I heard the call, the dispatcher said, ‘It’s fully engulfed. Bring everything you have,’” states Samuelson.
So that’s what the Watford City Fire Department did.
They responded to the fire along with the McKenzie County Ambulance Service, the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department, the Watford City Police Department, and Power Fuels water tankers.
Samuelson states that while the Watford City firemen were working to get the fire under control, the police and sheriff’s deputies were busy evacuating the residences and businesses in the fire’s immediate vicinity.
“They evacuated residents from homes along 12th Street Southeast and man camp trailers along 12th Avenue Southeast, because Watford City Fire Chief Ben Weltikol was afraid of contamination.”
Though no hazardous chemicals were reported by the business’ owner, Weltikol didn’t want to take any chances with safety. The business had on site two diesel tanks, each containing 650 gallons of fuel each and one propane tank.
In fact, to help keep people and traffic from the scene, Samuelson states that he called in help from the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1, who sent a bus over.
Stacy Segneri, who drove the bus and stayed with it until she was released from the scene, states that she was parked near the fire to help block traffic. The bus was also used to help give the fire fighters a place to warm themselves and their gear while working to get the fire contained.
“The fire fighters were getting cold from the water spraying back on them while trying to contain the fire, so we had a bus brought in to help keep the fire fighters warm and to help their gear thaw out,” states Samuelson.
Because Segneri was stationed so close, she states she was given a mask to wear, again, for fear of contamination.
Segneri states she arrived on the scene at 10 a.m. and was released after 1:30 p.m.
Samuelson states that the fire department did a great job getting the fire contained.
“When the fire department was dispatched at 9:30, the smoke was thick and black. By 11:30, the smoke had become mostly white,” states Samuelson.
According to the sheriff’s report, once the fire was contained and brought under control, evacuated residents and businesses were allowed back in. The report further states that the building was a total loss and the cause of the fire was believed to be propane-related.
Samuelson estimates that roughly 10,000 barrels of water were used to put out the fire, thanks to the help of Power Fuels. Though Weltikol can’t confirm the exact amount, he states that a lot of water was used that day to put the fire out.
Later that evening, fire fighters were again called to the scene, due to the fire reigniting, but they quickly got it under control, according to Samuelson.
No injuries were reported in the fire, but the incident has brought up an interesting topic for Samuelson - the issue of hazardous chemicals.
“Federal law, under Title III, also known as Community Right to Know Act, requires firms to report to state and local jurisdictions the types and quantities of hazardous chemicals they keep on site,” states Samuelson.
According to Samuelson, firms are required to report those chemicals to law enforcement officials, the fire department and county emergency management.
“Watford City’s Fire Department is highly trained and excellent. But it isn’t just grass fires anymore,” states Samuelson. “With so much going on out here you never know what our rural firemen will encounter. So it is even more important for businesses to report what kind of chemicals and hazardous materials they keep on site, so our fire fighters know what they are getting into.”
Samuelson fears that there are chemicals present in the county that are not being reported.
“Dealing with the quantity of hazardous materials is something new to our county,” states Samuelson. “There are many firms and even homes that have hazardous materials which are not reportable by law, but in a fire could be very deadly.”
Samuelson states that he keeps a data base in his office of all the businesses who do report their chemicals, as well as the chemicals they report, and that data base is available to the public.