Elizabethton Fire Department monitors burning underground tank near River View Townhomes
Published 7:20 pm Monday, June 20, 2016
Monday evening members of the Elizabethton Fire Department were still monitoring an underground concrete vault that caught fire after being struck by a backhoe earlier that morning.
“We have been trying to identify what the substance inside the vault is, but we do not have a lock on that yet,” said Elizabethton Fire Department Chief Barry Carrier around 6:30 Monday evening. “It was burning most of the day. The temperature was 500 degrees on the vault, but it has slowly been going down. It was around 200 degrees right now.”
Every couple of hours, firefighters, dressed in safety equipment, made their out to the tank were they ran tempature tests.
HEPACO, an environmental cleanup company, was on seen but had not been able to run tests on what is inside of the tank.
“They are still waiting for a couple of people out of Virginia,” said Carrier. “We will sample as soon as they get here and determine on what type of sample to do. It may be until tomorrow before we are able to proceed.”
Early Monday it was believed that some of the River View Apartments had been evacuated. However, that was not the case, said Carrier. Access to Stonewall Jackson Drive, which runs near the tank, has been block and an alternative route was provided to the residents of the townhomes.
Firefighters maintained a zone around the tank to keep members of the public a safe distance from the burning vault. Carrier said that is the best the fire department could do until HEPACO determined what inside the tank.
At 9:06 a.m. Monday morning, members of the Elizabethton Fire Department was dispatched to a construction site located off of Stonewall Jackson Drive behind Lowe’s after a subcontractor hit an unidentified tank with a backhoe causing flames to erupt from the ground.
“When he (the construction worker) pulled it back it flamed on him,” Elizabethton Fire Department Deputy Chief Rusty Barnett said earlier in the day. “So he shut it down and backed off of it and called us. When we got here it was just smoking a little bit. Every so often, when it builds up enough pressure, it gives off a poof of smoke.
“It is probably up to 500 degrees under the ground,” Barnett added. “We are not going to play with it and try to get to it. We have called in the big dogs, who will bring in equipment to dig it up. When they leave, it will be gone.”
Barnett said that there was not any leakage into the Watauga River.