Friday, April 3, 2009

A Little Too Much Excitement for Me

I'm not sure why this event popped up in my memory recently, but I figured it was an interesting enough story to share, even this far after the fact. While I was attending Texas Tech in Lubbock, I worked at a mortgage company. It was located on the outskirts of town, near 82nd & Ave F. It was a pretty industrial area, so each building was like a mini-warehouse. Next door to us was a paging/answering service company, and next door to them was Wylie Propane. My coworkers and I always joked about how it probably wasn't safe working near a propane plant. Boy, were we right!

I was sitting in my office one day, when my boss came charging through the back door of the building. He flew down the hallway, and as he passed by my office he yelled, "Get out now! The propane plant is on fire!" I remember sitting there for one second, as his words sunk in, and then the rush of panic I felt when I realized what he said. As I started to get up, I saw my coworker Amanda running after him. I grabbed my purse and followed suit.

As I ran out the front door of the building, I immediately felt the heat of the fire. The sound was pretty deafening too. I, along with my coworkers and other people from the buildings nearby, sprinted as fast as we could through the vacant field that was across from our offices. Everytime we stopped to look back, someone would yell that we were still too close. When we got to a distance that we felt was safe, all we could do was sit and watch.

Wylie is a propane distributor, so this location had pallet after pallet of personal sized 5 gallon propane tanks. There had to be thousands of them. They also had two enormous 18,000 gallon tanks on-site that stored propane. Their entire building was engulfed in flames, along with everything else on their property. The small canisters would catch fire and explode, and become dangerous projectiles. We could see them flying through the air, hitting neighborhood businesses, with some landing in the field not too far from us. We all just sat there in disbelief, as the fire became massive. It was incredible.

Considering how large and dangerous the fire was, we didn't hold out much hope that the fire fighters could extinguish it before it spread to nearby buildings. We just really hoped the huge storage tanks wouldn't explode, or the damage would've been exponentially greater. To get an idea of how massive this fire was, check out this video. The fire reached this magnitude very quickly. The building adjacent to the fire is the communications company (with the red roof), and I was in the building next to that one. Here's another video that shows the vantage point I had as I ran from the building. The center building in the shot is the one I was in, and parked out front you can see a Gray Ford Escape (next to the white truck). That was my car! I thought for sure it was dunzo! haha.

After my coworkers and I sat there in disbelief for a while, we figured we might as well head home. They had already battled the blaze for about an hour, and evacuated the nearby residents. So we got friends to take us home (since our cars were being held hostage!) and watched the news and waited. Firefighters battled the blaze for almost 3 hours before finally getting it under control. The wind was blowing strongly towards the east during the fire, so the businesses behind Wylie were in the path of it. Since our building was to the south of the fire, we were untouched. When all was said and done, we were incredibly lucky. It's hard to believe we didn't suffer any damage considering our proximity to the fire. Some other folks weren't so fortunate. The Wylie plant was completely destroyed and 23 cars and 7 other businesses were damaged. While I was able to return to my car and building unscathed, it was a little too much excitement for me.

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