A quick-thinking Santa Rosa County employee man prevented a major disaster Monday afternoon in Milton. David Thomas, senior road foreman, is being credited with putting out a fire at a pumping station with 40,000 gallons of gasoline as fuel.
Fire officials say the hose and surrounding area of a fueling truck caught fire right after dropping off a load of gasoline at the Santa Rosa County Public Works Department, according to emergency services personnel.
The truck was parked in the middle of three 10,000 gallon above-ground fuel tanks. The driver was detaching the fueling hose when a fire started, according to Fire Chief Sid Wiggins of the Avalon Fire and Rescue Department. The fire was fed by fuel residue in the hose, which quickly spread to spilled fuel on the ground by the tanks.
Sabrina Brown in Developmental Services, a building in close proximity to the fueling station, said she was on the phone with an inspector when someone stormed in saying there was a fire. Brown hung up and immediately called 911.
Several county employees darted across to the county fueling station to assist with what is being called a potentially devastating situation. David Thomasrushed in armed with a handheld fire extinguisher. The employee stepped in, pulled the trigger and drenched the flames. When firefighters arrived, the fire had already been extinguished by Thomas.
"I don't need to tell you how bad it could have been," Wiggins said, pointing at the large fuel tanks. "There's 10,000 there. There's another 10,000 there. There's 20,000 on the truck."
Wiggins said the fire started by a spark originating from a wire in the fuel hose itself. When the truck driver began to detach the hose from his rig, a spark jumped from the metal of the hose to the fuel tank of the truck.
The damage left behind is nil.
"Everything's back to normal," said Tom Collins, Fleet and Facility Manager. "The truck's gone and everything's cleaned up."