Asphalt and diesel fuel mix causes yesterday’s fire

No one hurt after employees allegedly mix asphalt and diesel fuel(Medley, Florida) The accidental mixing of hot asphalt and diesel fuel by employees is being blamed for a costly blaze at a Medley plant Monday that caused $750,000 in damage, Miami-Dade fire officials said.Flames inside a free-standing storage hangar on the grounds of the Brewer Co. of Florida at 10400 NW 121st Way were so intense that a foam truck normally used to combat fires at plane crashes had to be rushed to the scene to douse the petroleum-based fire.No one was injured as the company’s seven employees ran to safety, owner Walter Brewer told WFOR CBS4. ”All we know is that we got them out safely,” he said.At least one storage tank inside the aluminum hangar was destroyed, and six others sustained damage.It’s unclear if they were a total loss.The Brewer Co. has been in business since 1946, making asphalt mainly used for road construction.”They are one of Medley’s oldest companies and are in good standing with the city,” said Sal Annese, Medley’s building and zoning official.The fire broke out just before 11 a.m. when employees offloading the black, gooey asphalt accidentally allowed it to come in contact with diesel fuel also being stored in the hangar.LOUD EXPLOSIONEmployees in the area said they first heard a loud explosion, then saw smoke and flames.Eighteen Miami-Dade fire units rushed to the scene, stopping train traffic on the nearby Florida East Coast Railroad to run 1,000-foot hoses across tracks, around fences and through parking lots, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Eric Baum.Launching a ”defensive attack” on the flames, firefighters scaled 65-foot aerial ladders and showered the hangar with water to cool the tanks — keeping pressure inside them low to prevent them from exploding, Baum said.But the fire burned so hot that diesel fuel inside one of the tanks expanded, blowing off the front of the tank.A 3,000-gallon foam truck, usually used to combat fires at Miami International Airport, arrived at the scene at noon and contained the blaze within minutes.Baum said had firefighters tried to fight the flames with water alone, the diesel fuel and tar burning in the hangar could have floated to the water’s surface and spread in a moving liquid fire.”At any moment, the fuel container could fail, spilling a flaming river of fuel onto firefighters,” Baum said.NO VIOLATIONSOfficials from the county’s Department of Environmental Resource Management surveyed the damage Monday. Luis Espinoza, a DERM spokesman, said Brewer has no outstanding violations with the agency.A private environmental cleanup crew contracted by Brewer was already at work siphoning remaining liquid asphalt and fuel into new containers that hadn’t been exposed to the fire’s punishing heat and flames, Baum said.BY LUISA YANEZ AND THERESA BRADLEYlyanez@herald.comHerald news partner WFOR CBS4 and researcher Monika Z. Leal contributed to this report.

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