By William Holloman
Last week, dozens of firefighters from area departments and a specialty unit from New Hanover County responded to an LP gas tank explosion that threatened other gas tanks. The incident happened Wednesday at Southeastern Grain Company on U.S. 117 Alternate, just north of Calypso.
No injuries were reported, but grain company employees and residents in a half-mile radius were evacuated and housed at the nearby Calypso Fire Department. Red Cross and Duplin County Social Services personnel had set up emergency operations there.
The fire broke out around noon, and Wayne, Sampson, and Duplin firefighters stayed on the scene until as late as 5 p.m. 17 fire departments and a regional hazmat team from New Hanover County responded to the call for help. The Duplin and Wayne County Sheriff’s Departments, Mount Olive Police, and the State Highway Patrol also responded to the call. The Salvation Army set up and fed firefighters when the fire was over.
The LP tank that caught fire was near eight other 1,000-gallon tanks, which were saturated with water by fire personnel on the scene in the effort to keep it from spreading.
Mount Olive Fire Chief Greg Wiggins said unfortunately there was no fire hydrant in the area and water had to be brought in by pumpers. One source said, during the afternoon of battling the blaze, 21 fire truck pumpers were hauling in water.
Chief Wiggins did say the efforts of firefighters on the scene prevented what could have been a “major disaster.” He said the potential was there for something terrible.
Authorities in Calypso said they want to thank everyone who responded. Calypso spokesman Roger Davis said he and the Calypso firefighters want to make sure all who responded are recognized for their efforts in bringing the situation under control and avoiding what could have been a major disaster.
Officials have not determined what triggered the explosion, but personnel were working in the area prior to the explosion.