Oilfield fire self-extinguishes


Courtesy photos Firefighters from Sublette County Unified Fire and the La Barge Fire Department arrived at the scene of a May 5 oilfield fire to discover thick black smoke and flames coming from a tank battery.

LA BARGE — Sublette County Unified Fire (SCUF) battalions 1, 2 and 5 responded to a fire at an oilfield tank battery near the intersection of Dry Piney and Calpet roads in La Barge just after 5 a.m. on Friday, May 5. Firefighters from the La Barge Fire Department also responded to the scene, where they saw black smoke and flames coming from within the tank battery.

According to SCUF Fire Chief Shad Cooper, firefighters began cooling the exposures on site while the tank battery operating company turned off the related production feeds. Once the production supply was isolated, firefighters transitioned to suppression activities, using foam to control any hydrocarbon vapors. Despite their efforts, the fire activity increased near the production tanks, forcing firefighters to retreat across Calpet Road for their own safety. The fire was monitored from across the highway while a second attempt was made to contain the residual fire from oil remaining within the tank battery.

Eventually, the production company and fire command made a joint decision to halt suppression and return to the staging area across the paved highway, allowing the fire to consume the remaining fuel and burn itself out.

The fire ran out of fuel and self-extinguished early the next morning, May 6, without further incident.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined but the site was returned to the production company for monitoring with instructions to call 9-1-1 if further assistance is needed.

Chief Cooper said in a press release, “Fighting fires in oilfield production facilities is a complex operation with many hazards to mitigate.”
“Fires can be supplied from the production wells themselves or from equipment or storage tanks within the site. High pressure in piping and equipment, many gallons of crude oil, condensate and other hazardous materials inside these facilities all pose risks to personnel responding to the incident.”

Cooper explained, “Most times the safest action is to secure the area, prevent access to the site, contain the incident at a safe distance and allow the fire to consume whatever flammable products remain before re-entering the facility to try to figure out what happened — especially at a remote site with limited possibilities of endangering others.”

Video News