Fire At Gasoline Distribution Center

by Donna McCollum

A fire broke out shortly after 4:00 a.m. Wednesday morning at Morgan Oil Company in Nacogdoches. Thanks to a quick response, nobody was hurt, and an explosion was avoided.

You could see the glow for blocks, and the smoke from an even greater distance. No one got as close to the danger as Alvin Bailey. He came face to face with the leaping flames.

"Yeah, [the flames were] about 150 feet tall. They were shooting up in the air," Bailey said.

Bailey's morning routine of pulling up to the loading rack to fill his tanker truck was far from normal.

"When I turned the electricity on [to the filling rack], [and] went back to my truck, I saw the fire,” said Bailey.

With 2,000 gallons of fuel in his tank, Bailey knew what to do.

"Run! Get out of there."

Right now, it's believed the fire started with an electrical ignition. The lines leading from the bulk tanks were the first to catch fire, then the tanker rig.

Lt. Terry Westmoreland for the Nacogdoches Fire Department said, "The fuel was on the valve that shut off the fuel flow, so we couldn't put the fire out because it had to much fuel. We couldn't shut the fuel off because we couldn't put the fire out because we couldn't shut fuel off because we couldn't get through the fire!"

An office building and another truck were caught in the fire.

Pressure problems developed as 5,000 gallons of water a minute sprayed through hoses. Nacogdoches residents were asked to avoid using water so that the pressure would be available to fight the fire.

Firefighters barricaded nearby streets and closed businesses, as well as the Nacogdoches County Courthouse. Residents from at least eight homes were vacated.

Nearby Nettie Marshall Elementary School turned students away Wednesday as a precaution. Classes will resume Thursday on their normal schedule.

Oxygen tanks were constantly changed out. A shift change helped relieve weary firefighters.

The crew successfully prevented the holding tanks that contain more than 18,000 gallons of fuel from exploding.

If firefighters had any major challenge, it was having enough fire fighting foam. They used all they had and then relied on supplies from the Lufkin Fire Department and a supplier in Longview."

Morgan Oil executives will rely on their Lufkin supply center to serve customers. Business continues, but with difficulty.

Morgan Oil Company representative Doug Jordan told The East Texas News, "We've got to try to reconstruct our books [and] our computers. We've just got a lot of work to do."

The loss will be costly, but everyone involved feels relieved there was not any loss of life.

Fire officials will continue their investigation Thursday to try to determine the cause of the fire.