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Bryan oil field fire becomes real-life training day for TEEX

Posted at 6:06 PM, Mar 18, 2021

BRYAN, TX — A lightning strike caused a large fire at a Bryan oil field yesterday. But thanks to team effort and prior training, Brazos County area fire departments were able to contain the blaze.

At approximately 7:30 a.m. yesterday morning, an oil tank in east Bryan was stricken by lightning and caught fire, creating an earth-shattering boom and sending physical shock waves through the surrounding Austin's Estates community.

"One of the tanks wound up exploding and going out of the containment area," said Gerald Burnett, spokesperson for the Bryan Fire Department. "And then the contents from that tank discharged into the containment area around that tank, and the fire in that area ultimately ignited the other tank.”

No one was injured in the fire, and none of the surrounding homes or properties were damaged by the flames. Firefighters with the Bryan Fire Department and multiple assisting local departments won their battle after an hour and 20 minutes of work.

"The direct danger to homes is pretty low," Burnett noted. "That’s not to say there aren’t some exceptions, but that is one of the reasons we don’t want people messing around all the oil pads.”

Firefighters with Bryan FD, and many other agencies in the area, train for situations just like this at the industrial fire school hosted by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service [TEEX] in College Station.

"In our class what we do [is] try to show both ways to fight those [oil tank] fires," said Ray McElroy, industrial firefighting instructor with the TEEX Texas Fire Training School. "And we show the types of equipment, you can use to extinguish those types of fires using dry [chemicals], or firefighting foam.”

McElroy said most modern oil tanks are set up with precautions in place, in case a lightning strike or other emergency should happen.

"They’re all designed to be able to manage it within the system, within the dyke area, within the tank," he pointed out.

Gerald Burnett said the flames never made it past the tanks' containment area during Wednesday's incident, and the surrounding neighborhoods were kept safe – just, maybe a little shaken.