No one injured, only exterior damages in A-OX welding fire
“When you have your hazmat team tell you to evacuate out to a mile, that's a big deal, you have a big risk there,” Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Chief Brad Goodroad said.
A dangerous situation that authorities say could have been much worse. No one was injured during Thursday’s fiery explosions at A-OX Welding supply, a facility that stores thousands of gallons of flammable liquids and gasses.
Chief Goodroad said the five employees in and around the facility were able to safely evacuate before the major tank explosions began.
“So early on, we knew that everyone was out of the building. It started outside they realize it was getting out of control quick. They evacuated themselves out of that building,” Chief Goodroad said “So we made a decision early to go on a defensive mode with something like that due to the dangers of what we were dealing with there and the explosive nature of it.”
Once firefighters knew everyone was safely out of the facility, their main focus was on the three, one thousand gallon tanks on the side of the building that greatly increased the potential danger of the fire.
“That was a major concern when it comes to incident stabilization were those three tanks. Our hazmat team advised a one mile evacuation area. So a 360 degree angle one mile evacuation area," Goodroad said.
As 36 firefighters worked to prevent any catastrophic explosions, dozens of law enforcement from multiple agencies worked to evacuate the area.
“We saw one blast that was probably 50 feet in the air that was going up. I just said let's just get everyone out of here. We actually blocked our entrance off to make sure what we were protecting people from getting any closer,” Thunder Road General Manager Ryan Friez said.
A large party was just wrapping up at Thunder Road as the first explosions began.
“There was the potential of damaging part of every one of our buildings if something bad happened,” Friez said.
The risk of a major explosion was the top safety concern, but Goodroad said the air quality also called for evacuation.
“It’s a toxic smoke, it’s not only the propane that's burning. But there are things around there structurally that are a part of their filling station. The semis themselves, diesel fuel in the semi tracker. So there are a variety of things, obviously you don't want to breathe,” Goodroad said.
Evacuation efforts began with businesses and homes within the first quarter and then half a mile from the A-OX facility.
“This was an incident that really could have had tragic results those employees, first responders, the public. But everyone did the right thing,” Sioux Falls Emergency Manager Regan Smith said.
“We just need to be thankful that everyone was safe. No one was harmed and that's the really important thing in this whole process,” Friez said.
While several area businesses did take some losses Thursday night, they were all back up and running Friday, including A-OX Welding. The building is still standing with only minor damage to the west exterior walls.
The fire and explosions began outside near the propane filling area and stayed outside. Five semi-trucks and multiple smaller tanks were lost in the fire.
The state fire Marshall and the ATF were on the scene investigating Friday. Those agencies are expected to release more details about what started this fire sometime next week.