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indoor fuel oil tanks

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  • indoor fuel oil tanks

    We arrived to a fully engulfed detached garage fire, winds were blowing 25 Mph plus towards the house. IC did a walk around, shut off electricity and we started defensive ops to save the exposure. Within five minutes we started hearing the "jet" sound of a venting tank, it was in the garage so we couldn't get water on it. It eventually BLEVED (is that a word?), big boom, , big fire ball, big shock wave. We assumed it was coming so everyone was safe. The homeowner, who was not around during the fire, said he figured the tank was 1/3 to 1/2 full.

    Nobody had a clue that a 350 gallon fuel oil tank was in the garage. How do you folks in the areas where indoor fuel oil tanks are common know they are there? is it just so common it is assumed? are there mandated placards?
    The winner is not the person with the most gold when he dies, but rather, the most stories

  • #2
    Just #2 fuel oil?

    Originally posted by headoutdaplane View Post
    We arrived to a fully engulfed detached garage fire, winds were blowing 25 Mph plus towards the house. IC did a walk around, shut off electricity and we started defensive ops to save the exposure. Within five minutes we started hearing the "jet" sound of a venting tank, it was in the garage so we couldn't get water on it. It eventually BLEVED (is that a word?), big boom, , big fire ball, big shock wave. We assumed it was coming so everyone was safe. The homeowner, who was not around during the fire, said he figured the tank was 1/3 to 1/2 full.

    Nobody had a clue that a 350 gallon fuel oil tank was in the garage. How do you folks in the areas where indoor fuel oil tanks are common know they are there? is it just so common it is assumed? are there mandated placards?
    I'd say at least 75% of the homes and businesses in our area are heated by fuel oil, many use fuel oil year round to heat their hot water as well. Of them maybe 75% have indoor tanks, at least the residential units.

    The fill and vent pipes are typically fairly easy to spot coming from the wall at waist height of below (for the delivery man's ease of filling). But, we generally do not vary our tactics based on the presence of these tanks. In 25 years of going to fires, I've yet to see what you describe happen.

    One must ponder whether it was just fuel oil alone? We've seen some waste oil burning stoves who's owners collect and burn anything combustible or flammable regardless of some of the obvious dangers. My thought, based on what I personally have seen, is that the tank seams would fail before #2 fuel oil would boil and expand enough to BLEVE? It could be luck on our part too, but again, I've yet to hear anyone have this concern.
    Last edited by RFDACM02; 11-16-2011, 04:42 PM.

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    • #3
      Diesel flash point is so high I don't see how you could get a bleve. And as tanks are (normally) vented how could buildup any pressure. Likely something else going on.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by fireinfo10 View Post
        Diesel flash point is so high I don't see how you could get a bleve. And as tanks are (normally) vented how could buildup any pressure. Likely something else going on.
        You can BLEVE a tank with just water in it. FP really isn't an issue.

        Theoretically, it shouldn't be all that difficult to BLEVE a heating oil tank with substantial flame impingment. Such tanks are typically vented just enough for filling and normal changes in atmospheric pressure -- not for emergency venting under fire conditions.

        That being said, I don't ever recall an incident where a home heating oil tank BLEVE'd but wouldn't be the least bit shocked if I saw one tomorrow.
        "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
        sigpic
        The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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        • #5
          Are you sure it was a fuel oil tank and not something else?
          Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong thing, but what good would a heating oil tank be in an external garage? Certainly would be inefficient at heating the home, right? I guess the oil could be piped from the garage to the furnace in the home but there are probably distance limitations. again, I may be wrong. I still have an underground tank.

          I also don't think a heating oil tank would BLEVE in the way described. That sounds more like propane, acetylene or CNG tanks that could have also been in a work area in a garage.

          Anyway, other then the fill pipes (and lack of municipal gas meters) there are no required markings for interior oil tanks that I'm aware of.
          So you call this your free country
          Tell me why it costs so much to live
          -3dd

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          • #6
            You don't need to reach flash point in order to have a BLEVE.

            BLEVE occurs when a vessel containing a pressurized liquid above its boiling point ruptures. The vessel does not have to contain flammable substances.

            Even if the vessel is vented (pressure relief valve), it is possible to increase the temperature faster than the substance can absord the heat and the venting system can reduce the pressure, thus causing vessel failure.

            Vessels containing flammable substances will usually vent off some flammable hydrocarbons. This flammable release can explode after the fact or during the venting process.

            BLEVE is not usually considered a chemical explosion, even if the BLEVE results in a fuel-air explosion.

            I don't know what you specifically had, but if the vessel was ruptured or destroyed, then most likely it did BLEVE.
            HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

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            • #7
              Originally posted by voyager9 View Post
              Are you sure it was a fuel oil tank and not something else?
              Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong thing, but what good would a heating oil tank be in an external garage?
              Many folks have a furnace in their garage for a variety of reasons.

              For that matter, there's a 500 gallon fuel oil tank inside our fire station.
              Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

              Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
                You can BLEVE a tank with just water in it. FP really isn't an issue.

                Theoretically, it shouldn't be all that difficult to BLEVE a heating oil tank with substantial flame impingment. Such tanks are typically vented just enough for filling and normal changes in atmospheric pressure -- not for emergency venting under fire conditions.

                That being said, I don't ever recall an incident where a home heating oil tank BLEVE'd but wouldn't be the least bit shocked if I saw one tomorrow.
                Heating oil tanks properly installed will have vents the same diamater as the inlet. Which is typically 2" black iron pipe. A 2" vent is not small at all. With a vent that large, a BLEVE seems a bit unlikley. But maybe their was another issue, such as a modified vent.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by WD6956 View Post
                  Heating oil tanks properly installed will have vents the same diamater as the inlet. Which is typically 2" black iron pipe. A 2" vent is not small at all. With a vent that large, a BLEVE seems a bit unlikley. But maybe their was another issue, such as a modified vent.
                  Wd, while you are partially correct, there is a whistler device(vent alarm) installed that effectively limits the vent to under an inch. I personally believe the tank failed, and the ensuing fire and noise was from the now uncontained fuel lighting off. Another consideration, was the tank vented to outside as it should have been by code, or was the heated fuel oil fumes venting into the fire area?
                  PEACE

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                  • #10
                    Bleve or not, I would have liked to have seen that sucker go off!
                    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

                    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

                    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by WD6956 View Post
                      Heating oil tanks properly installed will have...
                      That's new "properly installed" tanks and primaruily for normal venting -- not really very effective for emergency venting. 2" nominal vents typical on new tanks often have lower effective capacities than you'd expect due to long pipe runs, elbows, whistles, rain caps, etc. Even today 1 1/4" is the minimum vent size permitted on tanks 660 gallons or less and is very common on older tanks.

                      Could you BLEVE a heating oil tank under the right conditions; even a "properly installed" one? More than likely, yes. Are you going to see those conditions often? I'd have to say, probably not. But I wouldn't rule it out.
                      "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
                      sigpic
                      The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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                      • #12
                        The best way of safety measure in such cases is to have fuel oil tanks is to be fixed outside under proper shed. Shed will protect these tanks from rain water. Proper pipe fitting from the tank to the working place, will be of great help.
                        GBI provides turnkey storage solutions for Industrial Tanks, Water Tanks, Fuel Tanks & Oil Tanks for applications spanning across multiple industries.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by camilaparker View Post
                          The best way of safety measure in such cases is to have fuel oil tanks is to be fixed outside under proper shed. Shed will protect these tanks from rain water. Proper pipe fitting from the tank to the working place, will be of great help.
                          How is that fuel oil going to be at -40F? Answer - jelly. That's why the tanks are inside in northern parts of the country...
                          Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

                          Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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                          • #14
                            Fuel oil tanks do not have to be inside in sub zero weather. I had mine outside all the way up to replacing fuel oil with LP 3 years ago. Around here they do a winter blend that does not turn to jelly in the cold weather. Wisconsin is definitely not known for warm winters.
                            Crazy, but that's how it goes
                            Millions of people living as foes
                            Maybe it's not too late
                            To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

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