July 23–PALMETTO — About 40 firefighters are battling a two-alarm biodiesel fire at Port Manatee that began inside a tank that had about 55,000 to 60,000 gallons of biodiesel inside.
A security guard called 911 on Sunday at about 6:45 p.m. to report the fire at Trans Montaigne, a Denver-based energy company, with a terminal in Palmetto.
North River District Fire Chief Michael Rampino said firefighters from Southern Manatee, Eastern Manatee, City of Bradenton, and Parrish are working the fire. There are eight apparatus in use with more help on the way.
“Since our arrival we started applying foam to the fire,” Rampino said. “On one or two occasions we have lost more of the tank. Some of the structural integrity is starting to collapse. During one of those integrity compromises the tank split on the surface, which is allowing us to cascade foam on top of the bio-fuel.”
Firefighters have applied about 1,900 gallons of foam to the palm-oil-based fuel, but based on the contents of the tank, they need about 1,600 gallons more foam to extinguish the blaze.
“Our calculations are telling us it’s going to take anywhere between 3,200 to 3,500 gallons of foam,” Rampino said.
Additional resources have been requested from Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
Efforts to put out the fire are being hampered by the older-model tank, which does not have a safety feature allowing foam to be injected into the bottom. Firefighters backed away from the fire until a split occurred at the top of the tank allowing them to spray foam inside.
Rampino said a drone is being used to monitor the fire.
The fuel is not an environmental hazard and hasn’t leaked out of the tank, said the fire chief, who added that the operation can be “labor intensive” because of the large quantity of assets needed to put the fire out. It could take several more hours to complete.
The cause of the fire is unknown and will be investigated.
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