Wed Jul 19, 2006
By RAY HENRY
Wed Jul 19, 2006
Wed, 19 Jul 2006 12:00 CDT
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Fire engulfed a dock area at the Port of Providence on Tuesday night when lightning struck as a tanker was unloading gasoline, sending large plumes of smoke and fireballs into the air.
Officials said the ship was able to safely pull away from the dock.
Assistant Fire Chief Mark Pare said the 600-foot tanker was unloading gas when lightning struck nearby and set off a fire. He said no injuries were reported.
The blaze had been largely contained by early Wednesday morning, although firefighters were allowing smoldering flames near the dock to burn out, said Armand Randolph, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.
The state Department of Environmental Management is investigating whether any fuel spilled into the harbor, said Jeff Neal, a spokesman for Gov. Don Carcieri.
Early, incorrect reports were that the ship was burning. The immediate scene of the fire was not visible to reporters.
Roy Nash, Coast Guard captain of the port for southeastern New England, said ship traffic was temporarily suspended in Providence Harbor until the tanker was able to dock elsewhere. He said the ship was under its own power, and was believed to still have some fuel on board. He said it would be checked for any damage.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the area earlier in the evening, and bolts of lightning flashed overhead as firefighters poured water onto the flames.
Truck driver John Garrett said he was resting in his truck near the port facility when the storm hit. Looking out a window, he saw a bolt of lightning hit near the dock, followed immediately by a large explosion and fireball.
Garrett said he could feel the heat from several hundred feet away. "I've never seen anything in the world like this," he said.
The fire happened at a terminal owned by Motiva Enterprises, a Houston-based joint operation between Saudi Refining Inc. and Shell Oil Co.
Darci Sinclair, a spokeswoman for Motiva, said the company was investigating.