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Fire breaks out at Bulawayo service station

by Staff reporter
22 Sep 2022 at 05:57hrs | Views
A SWIFT reaction by the Bulawayo Fire and Emergency Services coupled with bravery by a driver of a fuel-tanker helped to avert disaster when a fire broke out at a city service station during a decanting exercise yesterday.

With a sudden woosh, flames flared up as petrol attendants at Magnum Petroleum Service Station were decanting 10 000 litres of diesel.

The service station is located along Fife Street and between 14th and 15th avenues.

Hordes of onlookers rushed to the scene at around 6PM as exaggerated versions of the incident quickly spread through the city centre.

Without apparent concern for their safety, as an explosion could have followed, the crowd swelled as the Bulawayo Fire Brigade teams arrived within minutes to battle the inferno.

The driver of the fuel tanker took a brave decision to drive the burning tanker about 100m from the station, away from petrol tanks.

Fire fighters had a torrid time pushing away onlookers who got dangerously close to shoot images to share on social media.

A cloud of black smoke tinged with orange flames billowed from the tanker and could be seen right across the city centre.

Witnesses said they believed that if the fire fighters had arrived late, even by five minutes, there could have been a disaster of frightening magnitude.

Of concern is that if the fire was not controlled it could have engulfed three other fuel stations and buildings within the same block.

A Magnum employee, who cannot be named, said the cause of the fire was unknown.

"It just started as we were decanting a fuel tanker. We don't know how it started. Everything happened so fast.  One of the guys we work with tried to extinguish the fire but it was too strong. I don't know how the truck was removed from the station as we were just told to run for safety," said the employee.

The owner of the service station had not arrived on the scene.

One of the fire officers who was not cleared to talk to the Press commended the swift action by the fuel tanker driver.

"The tanker was loaded with 10 000 litres and while in the process of decanting it unfortunately caught fire. The driver was jacked up so he managed to drive away to avert disaster. The structure of the building caught fire, the pump machine caught fire but due to the proximity to the fire station, teams arrived swiftly and the fire was stopped from spreading. They had decanted only 3 000 litres from 10 000 litres," he said.

The fire brigade team member said the behaviour by members of the public was worrying as they disregarded safety precautions.

"We were extinguishing a petroleum fire but this did not seem to bother members of the public. We have always had challenges with members of the public as we conduct our work. They were busy taking pictures and some of them were even interfering with our teams which is worrying. We have heard of incidents where there are explosions but we are glad that no one was injured in this incident," said the member.

When a Chronicle news crew left the scene, fire fighting teams had barricaded the road to pave way for further investigations.

Businessman Mr Tyris Andris, who also operates a fuel station said he was keen to learn what caused the fire while commending fire fighters for a job well done.

"I want to find out the cause of the fire so that we can avoid it as well. I think it was brilliant, with the tanks here, the fire could have gone through the pipes and I think if they were five minutes late all the surrounding buildings could have been destroyed. But their swift action really made a difference," said Mr Andris.

A comment could not be obtained from Bulawayo acting chief fire officer Mr Linos Phiri who was expected to get an official report from fire fighters.

Source - The Chronicle