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News | March 14, 2009

JTF-B responds to overturned fuel tanker

By Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Danét Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Firefighters, medics and security forces from Joint Task Force-Bravo provided mutual aid assistance to the Comayagua Fire Department Friday when a fuel tanker overturned on C.A. 5 approximately eight kilometers north of the base. 

The tanker, carrying 11,000 gallons of butane gas, hit a horse on the road and overturned on its side. A puncture in the tank caused a slow leak of the highly-flammable fuel, which led Honduran fire and police officials to close the road in both directions for just over 24 hours. 

The two fire departments routinely provide assistance to each other when incidents require more manpower or experience than what's locally available, said Mr. Herberth Gaekel, JTF-B fire inspector. He said they also conduct monthly training exercises together to enhance their ability to work together in incidents such as these. 

When JTF-B firefighters arrived on scene, team leader Master Sgt. Pat Miller caught up with incident commander Lt. Jorge Turcias of the Comayagua Fire Department. Together the two developed a plan to safely remove the remaining fuel from the tanker before turning it upright to remove it from the road, Sergeant Miller said. 

The risk of explosion during either operation was moderate to high, Sergeant Miller said. 

One of the first obstacles to clearing the road was a nearly four-hour wait for a technician to arrive from San Pedro Sula, who could supervise the removal of the fuel from the tanker. In the meantime, firefighters began spraying water on the tanker in an attempt to cool it from the effects of the noonday sun. 

"Our first priority is to make the area safe in order to protect the people," Sergeant Miller said. As part of that protection, Honduran police officers set up an 800-meter cordon around the overturned truck and effectively brought traffic on the country's main thoroughfare to a halt. 

By the time the incident concluded, more than 24 hours had passed since it began but no injuries were reported to any of the responding personnel. Experts were able to safely offload the remaining fuel, upright the truck and tow it away. 

"Joint Task Force-Bravo is committed to providing assistance to our neighbors when we're needed," said Col. Richard Juergens, JTF-B commander. "These are the people we live and work with everyday, so it's good to know we can count on each other whenever a situation arises."