Fire forces evacuation of plant

by: Photo By Holly M. Gill - Fire burned a shed, seriously injuring a worker at FerrelGas on Cherry Lane Monday.

   One man was injured and five businesses in the Madras Industrial Park had to be evacuated Monday following a vapor explosion and fire at the FerrelGas facility on Cherry Lane.
   The fire started around 2:30 p.m., as FerrelGas deliveryman Charles Haring of Prineville was in a small shed shutting down equipment after offloading gas from a tank to his truck. Something caused an explosion, which burned Haring and started the fire.
   Judy Hagerty, who works across the street at the Wilbur-Ellis office said, "He walked to our office after he was burned and showed up at our front door and we called the ambulance. His shirt was burned off down to his waist." She said she knew Haring because he delivers natural gas to their plant.
   Fire Marshal Mark Carman speculated that the hot weather may have caused the gas vapors to ignite. The shed contains equipment for transferring gas from rail cars to two storage tanks, he said.
   Haring was airlifted from Mountain View Hospital to the burn center at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland with second- and third-degree burns. He was listed in serious condition on Tuesday.
   As the fire spread to nearby grass, fire crews attempted to cool the 30,000-gallon liquid petroleum gas tank near the flames and a 15,000-gallon tank next to it by spraying the tanks with a half-million gallons of water during the five hours they were at the scene. At one point, the flames were 15 feet high.
   Since a tank explosion could potentially level a half-mile area, law enforcement personnel evacuated industrial park businesses within that radius, including Keith Manufacturing, North Unit Irrigation, Central Oregon Seeds, Wilbur-Ellis and Bright Wood Corporation.
   Carman said it was determined the Jefferson County jail did not need evacuation because it was a brick and cement structure.
   "We called in the hazardous materials team (HAZMAT) from Redmond as a technical advisor to help us understand the properties of gas so we'd get everything shut off right," Carman said.
   Then, with water hoses backing them up, "We went in and shut down the tanks," Carman said.
   Damage to the shed was estimated between $10,000 to $12,000, and damage to the gas tanks has not yet been determined.
   Cherry Lane was closed from the highway to Mill Street, but traffic on U.S. Highway 26 was not diverted. The evacuation was lifted at 5:22 p.m.
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