MFA blast, fire called one of worst in decade

Monday, January 10, 2005
Flames were still visible Saturday morning following a series blasts Friday at the MFA PetroCard 24 station north of Marshall.

Friday's explosion and fire at one of Marshall's MFA PetroCard 24 gas stations is being called one of the worst in a decade locally.

Marshall firefighters arrived at the scene, just outside of Marshall on Missouri Highway 41, at 8:05 a.m. Friday and remained there until early afternoon Sunday.

Marshall Fire Captain Rick Schaefer said the department initially responded with two pumper trucks and a tower truck, but the effort to battle the blaze required additional assistance. He said firefighters from the Carrollton, Sedalia, Slater, Sweet Springs, Blackburn and Pettis County fire departments all played a part in controlling the fire.

Schaefer said in addition to providing manpower the other fire departments also helped supply the foam needed to fight fuel fires. He said the foam is costly and has a shelf life, both factors that limit the amount any one department can keep on hand. By sharing their supplies, the departments help share the burden.

Firefighters were at the scene of the fire continuously from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon.

The firefighters also found help from other sources. Schaefer said Marshall Mayor Connie Latimer, the American Red Cross and private citizens all offered food and other comforts to the firefighters on the scene. Union Pacific Railroad made a nearby building available for use as a command center, giving the firefighters a refuge from the cold.

The fire's cause is still under investigation, but by the time firefighters arrived it had already engulfed a gasoline tanker truck, two propane delivery trucks and eight bulk fuel storage tanks. The flames were not fully extinguished until 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Firefighters remained on the scene through Sunday as a safety precaution while the remainder of the fuel was pumped out of the tanks.

Schaefer said the fire was probably the worst since a blaze at ConAgra frozen foods 10 years ago. Damage estimates are still being calculated, but are expected to be in the millions of dollars.

Despite the fierceness of the fire, only one person was injured. MFA delivery driver Arcie Sapp, of Ashland, suffered burns over 90 percent of his body. He was taken to University Hospital in Columbia for treatment and remained there in critical condition Monday morning.

Kevin Wulff, plant manager for the MFA facility, said with the exception of the PetroCard gas pumps, operations have been unaffected by the fire. He said the facility is still able to delivery fuel, adding that propane deliveries resumed Friday afternoon.

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