Ruptured oil tank creates dangerous situation for firefighters

CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) – Fire crews were on the scene through the night Thursday into early Friday morning, battling a fire in a Cumberland garage that became a hazmat situation.

The building, located at 30 Mill Street, was uninhabited at the time of the fire. According to officials, it was used for storage of personal vehicles and tractor trailers by a company that manages a trucking operation.

“The fire was accelerated as we gained entry because there was some waste oil which is common in these commercial structures to be used as a heating element, and the waste oil tank was compromised,” said Cumberland Fire Chief Kenneth Finlay. “[The oil] somewhat accelerated the fire.”

Oil spilled throughout the structure when the tank ruptured, creating slippery, dangerous conditions for firefighters.

“We had a few guys go down, slipping on the ice and the oil mixture because of the slope of the yard,” Finlay said.

In addition, oil-soaked gloves and other equipment creates a hazard for fire crews, as they can ignite if all oil cannot be removed.

“If the gloves are so saturated you can’t get the petroleum byproducts out, I can’t realistically put a firefighter back in them and expose them to a heat source,” Finlay explained. “We’ll be evaluating that tomorrow to see what equipment can be salvaged and what is going to have to be taken out of service.”

Despite the dangerous conditions, no serious injuries were reported and no one was transported to the hospital from the scene.

It took crews about an hour and a half to extinguish the blaze.

The state fire marshal and the DEM are still investigating.