Colonial Pipeline upgrades fire system

Published 5:39 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Pelham Fire Department recently worked with officials at the Colonial Pipeline tank farm off Interstate 65 to help the facility better prepare for a potential disaster.

A few years ago, lightning struck a gasoline tank at a similar tank farm in North Carolina, and caused the tank to burst into flames, said Pelham Fire Chief Danny Ray.

“That tank was not supposed to burn, but it did,” Ray said of the North Carolina incident.

Ray said the tank burned for several hours before firefighters were able to bring it under control, and said the blaze could have spread to surrounding tanks.

In the wake of the incident, officials at the Pelham Colonial Pipeline decided to donate their $1,000 in safety incentive money to the Pelham Fire Department, and make upgrades to the facility’s fire systems.

“The Colonial Pipeline manager called me and said their organization gives them safety dollars each year as an incentive. He said they usually use that money to buy T-shirts, but this year they chose to donate that safety money to us,” Ray said.

The Pelham Colonial pipeline location, which contains nine large holding tanks, is connected to a nationwide network of underground pipelines. The tanks contain several types of fuels, such as diesel, kerosene, jet fuel and diesel fuel, Ray said.

The Pelham facility offloads fuel from the pipelines and distributes it across many areas of the Southeast, Ray said.

After the company donated its safety dollars to the Pelham Fire Department, Colonial Pipeline purchased and installed a fire hose manifold on the southern end of the property, which would allow the fire department to power several water hoses on-site in case of an emergency.

The company also purchased the fire department a trailer containing concentrated fire-suppression foam and a mounted foam gun.

“They said they would furnish that foam gun if we would house it,” Ray said, noting the department will house the trailer in station No. 3. “If one of those tanks caught on fire, you can really only use water to cool the adjoining tanks until you can use foam to put out the fire.”

Colonial Pipeline currently has more than 2,000 gallons of foam at its tank farm. Ray said the fire department will use the $1,000 donated by the company to purchase 250 gallons of foam concentrate to add to the 250 gallons already in the mobile foam trailer.

“It’s one of those things you really want to have, but you hope you never have to use it,” Ray said.