Possibility of explosion at Lincoln propane fire increases

7:49 AM, Aug 25, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Lincoln propane fire closes Hwy 65, forces evacs

Video: Raw tape: Propane tanker car catches fire in Lincoln

Video: Lincoln propane fire closes Hwy 65, forces evacs

  • Photo courtesy James Kratz
  • Emergency crews ready if propane tank explodes
  • Photo courtesy of Cristina Gonzalez
  • Photo courtesy Rebecca Beaty

LINCOLN, CA - The rail tanker fire in Lincoln continued to burn Wednesday, increasing the pressure inside the car and the likelihood of an explosion.  

Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said 4,800 homes and businesses in a one-mile radius around the burning propane at 9th and I Streets were ordered to leave. (Evacuations centers listed below.)

"Our fear is that not only does that rail car tank explode, but so do the tanks around it and with about a 1/2 million gallons of propane in that field," Berlant said.

Late Tuesday night, an elite contract team of experts flew in from east Texas to advise local firefighters and emergency service workers on managing the situation. They were expected to begin working before midnight.

UPDATE: The containment plan

The Placer County Sheriff's Department activated reverse 911 calls to residents to evacuate the area.

Staff at Lincoln High School and Glen Edwards Middle School were evacuated. 

PHOTOS: Propane tanker car fire

The tanker is in the yard of Northern Energy Propane.

Firefighters continue to spray four unmanned fixed hoses at the tanker to keep it cool and the pressure down.

Evacuations will remain in place throughout the night as the possibility of an explosion increases, Berlant said.

Berlant estimated only about 70 percent of those inside the mandatory evacuation zone had actually left. "Anybody who chooses to stay behind is risking their life and the lives of their family by doing so," he said.

In spite of dire warnings, some residents were determined to leave. "I have cats and everything else and if they're gonna go, I'm gonna go with 'em," said resident Audi Loomer as she walked her dog well inside the evacuation zone.

Firefighters have back-up plans in place in case the tanker does explode and three CAL FIRE strike teams were standing by along with engines from many other departments.

Update: Classes Wednesday at all Western Placer Unified School District schools, which would have been the first day of the new school year, have been cancelled, the district says. 

The thoroughfare through Lincoln, Highway 65, is closed in both directions from Sixth Street to Wise Road on the north side, according to California Highway Patrol Officer David Martinez. Gladding Road at Wise Road is also blocked to traffic as is Highway 193 at Ferrari Ranch Road.

A firefighter on the scene said a tanker car holds 29,000 gallons of propane and burns between 30 and 50 gallons per minute.

A gas pipeline runs in the affected area.

How the fire started hasn't been determined but flames are coming out of a relief valve on top of the tanker where workers had been working.

There was no early word of any injuries.

Evacuation centers

- Lincoln Community Center, 2010 First Street and Joiner Parkway
- Lincoln Crossing Clubhouse, 830 Groveland Lane
- Kilaga Springs Lodge, 1167 Sun City Boulevard 

Air quality

Heather Kuklo with Placer County Air Quality District says the propane fire is not considered a threat to air quality in the area. She said propane does not release toxic fumes in the same way that plastic or tires would.

Reverse 911 glitch

Callers in Roseville and Granite Bay and as far away as Tahoe City reported receiving reverse 911 calls regarding the evacuation.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Dena Erwin said the department was investigating what happened.

She reiterated the mandatory evacuation order pertained only to those within a one-mile radius of the burning tanker car.


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