Propane Tank Fire and Explosion
Shortly after 5 p.m. on May 17, 2018, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue was dispatched to a report of a fire involving multiple propane tanks at A-OX Welding Supply Company, Inc. at 101 North Harlem Avenue in Sioux Falls. Responding crews reported seeing columns of smoke and flame as they left their stations.
On arrival, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue crews noted multiple large explosions coming from the rear of the building with rapid expansion of the flames. Crews staged at a safe distance and sized up the scene for safety. Reports from employees on-site advised all personnel were safely out of the building. With no life-safety concern inside the building, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue began defensive operations using aerial water towers and master stream devices to cool adjacent uninvolved tanks of flammable liquids. The fire from the exploding flammable liquid tanks continued and subsequently spread to five semitrailers with more tanks stored inside them, eventually reaching the cab of one of the trucks. As the fire involved the diesel fuel tank of the truck, it produced heavy black smoke as it burned off the fuel.
The area immediately around the incident was evacuated with assistance from the Sioux Falls Police Department, Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Department, and the South Dakota Highway Patrol as a precaution against subsequent explosions and exposure to toxic fumes from the burning fuels.
After the explosions stopped and most of the fuel had been burned off, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue utilized a drone to fly over the fire area to check conditions inside the tank storage area. Deeming it safe, a crew advanced hose lines into the adjacent lot and in conjunction with the live feed from the drone were able to direct a master stream onto the remaining burning debris in the tank yard. Multiple spot grass fires in a wooded area adjacent to the fire and the bike path were extinguished using a Sioux Falls Fire Rescue’s Wildland fire unit.
Crews will remain on scene overnight monitoring the area. Sioux Falls Fire Inspector Mike Schmidt with assistance from ATF will be back on scene at daylight to continue their investigation into origin and cause.
Sioux Falls Fire Rescue responded with six fire trucks, three support vehicles, four chief officers, and SFFR Emergency Manager with a total of 36 personnel. There were no reported injuries to civilians or firefighters.
Sioux Falls Fire Rescue would like to extend a thanks to the Sioux Falls Police Department, Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Department, South Dakota Highway Patrol, Paramedics Plus Ambulance, Aerial Horizons drone service, MidAmerican Energy, Xcel Energy, Public Works Department, Minnehaha County Emergency Management, and any others who helped keep everyone safe.