At approximately 11:10 p.m. on Thursday April 9, 1998, a fire was reported at a large turkey farm in Albert City, Iowa. The fire began when teenagers riding an all terrain vehicle (ATV) struck two pipelines carrying liquid propane from an 18,000- gallon (68,220 L) capacity LP-Gas tank to two vaporizer units creating a leak. The ensuing cloud of vapor was ignited by a near-by ignition source. The teens were able to escape the area prior to ignition. They went to a near-by farmhouse to phone 911.
On the basis of the fire investigation and analysis, the NFPA has determined that the following significant factors directly contributed to the explosion and the fire fighter deaths:
Lack of protection around the LP tank installation and associated equipment. This lack of protection allowed the ATV to strike the vaporizer piping.
The impingement of flame on the propane tank (in the vapor space), causing the tank shell to weaken and fail.
The close proximity of fire department operations to the LP tank while the tank was being exposed to direct flame contact.
The lack of an adequate and reliable water supply in close proximity to the site to allow for hose streams to be rapidly placed in service to cool the LP-Gas tank that was being impinged upon by flames from the broken pipes.
The decision to protect the exposed buildings and not relocate all personnel to a safe location given the lack of an adequate water supply.
Members can read the full NFPA investigation report BLEVE, Albert City, IA Those who would like to learn more about LP-GAS fires can read the NFPA Fires Starting with Flammable Gas or Flammable or Combustible Liquid For more information on Firefighter Fatalities and Firefighter Injuries