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Fire at Gas Station in St. Augustine Follows Explosion

10:48 PM, Aug 19, 2011   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A massive fire that followed several explosions at a local BP station and injured one person is now under control.

The fire started when a tanker exploded while making a delivery to an underground storage tank, said Jennifer Diaz, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection.

PICTURES: BP Explosion in St. Augustine

Diaz said the fire that started shortly after 4:30 was brought under control after 7 p.m.

Fire units from Jacksonville as well as the St. Augustine airport responded, in addition to St. Johns County Fire Rescue.

The trucks from the airport are used in fighting fires resulting from crashes of fueled aircraft, and they are applying the same type of foam to the area, according to St. Johns County Fire Rescue spokesperson Jeremy Robshaw.

People in the area of SR 16 and Masters have been evacuated and should report to Sebastian Middle School, said Carla Wright with the St. Johns County School Board.

The gas station was the last in the county with tanks above the ground, according to former St. Johns County fire chief Al Cumbie, who added that most new stations have tanks below the ground

The St. Johns County Fire and Rescue asked the utility to deenergize the area following the explosion, said Neil Nissan, Florida Power and Light spokesman, leaving thousands without power.

About 4,300 customers were affected starting around 5:30 p.m. The majority had power restored in an hour. Around 9 p.m., about 20 households still were without power. Nissan said crews were standing by waiting for approval from firefighters to reenergize the line for those remaining customers. 

One person was taken to the hospital after at least two explosions; it is unclear the extent of the victim's injuries.

An off-duty Jacksonville Fire and Rescue firefighter who works at station 7 rescued the victim, according to JFRD Capt. Roy Hall.

Hall said Pat Copeman was about a block away when the explosion happened and went to assist. He was among a group that saw the victim lying near a burning vehicle, then dragged him to safety about 100 feet away.

The smoke could be seen from at least 10 miles away. Early on people within a half-mile of the explosion were evacuated, said Jeremy Robshaw, a spokesperson for St. Johns County Fire and Rescue.

According to St. Johns County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Sgt. Chuck Mulligan, all evacuations, voluntary or mandated, are now finished.

The Florida Highway Patrol is keeping SR 16 closed.

Mark Miner, a St. Johns County commissioner, said one of the biggest challenges right now is all the agencies involved communicating with each other.

The DEP's Bureau of Emergency Response got to the scene around 7.

First Coast News

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