The tones interrupted another dream that I wasn't going to remember anyway. It was 0100. Engine 51, Engine 53, Engine 62, Truck 52, Rescue 93, Battalion 6....commercial structure alarm sounding....
The address was familiar. We often get false alarms to several of the major businesses in the area and this is one of them. We donned our turnouts (mostly....there may have been one or two of us that didn't button up our jackets because it's always a false alarm) and jumped into the engine. My captain was busy looking at the map. My engineer was concentrating on driving. Just then, the other firefighter said, "Sh*t! Is that smoke over there?!! HOLY SH*T!! Those are huge F***ing flames!!" That got our attention really quick.
As we looked to the West toward the address we saw, in the night sky, a pitch black plume of smoke with flames circling through it. Our local oil refinery had caught fire. As we turned down the street my captain informed dispatch that we had a working fire and then asked for a second and third alarm assignment to be made. Basically, wake up everyone...I think we're going to need them.
While dispatch started to get the reinforcements coming we made contact with the shift supervisor at the refinery. His employees were running around in a borderline panic. When the supervisor informed us that he was missing an employee our entire focus shifted. Within a couple of minutes he was found by his friend asleep in his car. I bet he got in some trouble for that!
Once we had the life safety situation under control we slowed things down to figure out the best way to safely attack the fire. The employees were little help. They didn't know what was burning, if the fuel had been shut off or what was exposed. They did know that they had a massive (over 30 feet tall) tank of propane on the back side of the property which they thought might be close to the fire. Good to know!
The IC instructed our crew to head around to the back side of the facility to do some reconnaissance. We were tasked with figuring out exactly what was burning and the best way to mitigate the situation. We went down the driveway of the commercial building next door the the refinery and were able to get a good view of things. The flare stack had huge flames coming from the top and bottom of it.
We also asked for engine 53 and truck 52 for additional resources. I manned the deck gun and started getting some water into the area (the refinery personnel had put into service 3 monitors that weren't really positioned in a place to do much good). I was able to hit one of the towers with the master stream and rain down water on everything. Within a couple of minutes truck 52 put up their stick and started an aerial master stream.
Another truck, from a neighboring agency, set up on the other side of the facility with their aerial master stream. We were then able to escort an engineer from the refinery in to shut off the fuel. The fire burnt itself out in about 20 minutes.
We were back in bed by about 0400.