Lightning ignites Leavenworth oil tanks - KCTV5

Lightning ignites Leavenworth oil tanks

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Justin Schmidt/KCTV5 Justin Schmidt/KCTV5

Authorities in Leavenworth County are blaming a lightning strike for an explosion and fires at an oil tank farm.

No injuries were reported when three 8,500-gallon crude oil tanks were struck at 4:33 a.m. Wednesday in northern Leavenworth County. A storm was pounding the area.

Emergency management officials say two of the tanks exploded. One went airborne and landed about 200 yards away. The top of a third tank was blown off, and most of the oil inside burned.

"Nobody was hurt. There were no fatalities. It could have easily been a deadly scenario," said Chuck Magaha, the emergency manager for Leavenworth County. "It was just decimated. It blew up to nothing. Another fiberglass tank melted down."

Flames were visible from five miles away. Because of the remote location, firefighters had trouble getting to the scene, Magaha said.

Firefighters allowed the oil in the tanks to burn itself out, along with a 1,000-gallon propane tank that also ignited.

"It made it extremely hazardous to even attempt to extinguish the fire," Magaha said. "It made more sense to let it burn out. It was a half mile from anybody. There wasn't any use in anybody getting hurt."

There were lightning rods on the site, but they couldn't protect from such a strong strike, he said.

Crews built a series of berms and ditches to keep the oil from the water.

The company that owns the tank farm was cleaning up about 2,000 gallons of crude oil that spilled onto the ground.

State agencies are investigating and will work to make sure that the cleanup does not contaminate the groundwater supply.

Magaha said fire departments in Leavenworth County receive frequent training in handling a fire like this in part because the county has dozens of oil tanks.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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