NEWS NEWS AND MORE NEWS I am going to get all of my memories down, before I forget what I remember!. . . . quote from Stanley Forman

24Jul/113

Tankers: Great Balls of Fire!

Gaso­line tanker burn­ing, Saugus MA, Essex Street Exit.

Gaso­line tankers, ter­ri­ble dan­ger, deaf­en­ing explo­sions and many times tragic deaths.  As I review the many I have cov­ered, seven at today’s count. I know of two which resulted in a death or severe injury. The worst one being my first big story in 1966, a month after I began at the Record Amer­i­can (ref­er­enced in a another blog on this site “my first major tradgedy, 8 DOA”) and now this one on July 23, 2011.  

My first call for the inci­dent came from my friend Alan who is a free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher for the Lynn Item. He is up all night lis­ten­ing to the scan­ners. While mine are run­ning the prob­lem is with our room air con­di­tioner on and my hard of hear­ing ears I was hav­ing a prob­lem hear­ing the radios which are run­ning next to my side of the bed the extra help is needed. Thank­fully I get it.

Alan said a trac­tor trailer flipped over in either Saugus or Revere as both police depart­ments were yakking about it. He said they were say­ing Essex Street. I imme­di­ately knew in my dazed state of wakeup it was Essex Street in Saugus. I thought he meant a large trac­tor trailer and the sad­dle tanks had caught fire not real­iz­ing for a minute or two it was a gaso­line tanker.

I got up slid down the pole (only kid­ding) got dressed quickly (my clothes and equip­ment are always ready) but at my age I have to make a pit stop before I get going and then I have this thing about brush­ing my teeth so that took another minute. Unless my des­ti­na­tion is within a cou­ple of min­utes of my house and the extra minute or two is going to be too costly I stop for these chores.

I made great time get­ting there, no real traf­fic and know­ing the area of Route One and lis­ten­ing to the radios I thought I could sneak around the road blocks through the Square One Mall park­ing lot and it worked. I also knew the police would not have all their resources in place to block off every­thing so soon. A few min­utes later I might have had prob­lems get­ting as close as I did.

Great Balls of Fire

So there it was, a tanker on its side, flames shoot­ing 60 plus feet in the air and explo­sive thun­der from the igni­tions of the fuel tak­ing place, great TV which was the only thing I was think­ing about not know­ing at this time a life has been lost and another per­son severely burned. That knowl­edge would put a damper on the excite­ment I was enjoy­ing as I had kicked butt with my images.

I was stand­ing in the south­bound lane of Route One and the truck was less than 30–40 yards in front of me.  I wished once again I had brought my tri­pod but car­ry­ing my still cam­era, a 22 pound plus video cam­era, two phones, extra bat­ter­ies was enough. It was swel­ter­ing out there from the sum­mer tem­per­a­tures, with the humid­ity very high and add to that the heat from the fire; the tri­pod stays in the car. There was also the thought of addi­tional explo­sions and hav­ing to run for cover. Less is bet­ter some­times. Yes I am sec­ond guess­ing myself because the tri­pod would have meant stead­ier video but when the com­pe­ti­tion is far behind it doesn’t really mat­ter. I envy those who can carry everything.

Tanker on its side still burning.

After spend­ing a long time on the south­bound side I ven­tured over to another angle closer to the tanker.  I was con­cerned if I left where I was I might lose the great spot I had but I needed other angles. The funny part of this is I kept hear­ing explo­sions but the shots I was mak­ing of the burn­ing fuel did not show any big blasts. I real­ized these explo­sions were tak­ing place about 1500 to 2000 feet behind the fire well into the res­i­den­tial areas of Saugus where a house and other struc­tures caught fire after the fuel floated down an adja­cent stream.

After get­ting these shots I walked back to my orig­i­nal loca­tion saw a rank­ing trooper and asked if I could go north in the south and then go south in the north lanes as I needed to be on the other side. I was told “Stan­ley you have been around long enough, be care­ful and if you get stopped tell them I said it was okay.” I got to the other side and began trudg­ing up and down the ramp com­plex to get what I needed. Dur­ing all of this I was putting the video cam­era down and cap­tur­ing great still images with my dig­i­tal cam­era. I guess I don’t know how to use my IPhone cam­era as I could not get a really good shot of the fire with it or maybe the shut­ter of the IPhone is too slow to stop the action?

I did what I had to do, left the scene, drove to Revere where I could feed my video(I have a microwave trans­mit­ter in my com­pany vehi­cle but I need line of site for a cou­ple of receive sites in Boston and or Need­ham)  for the Eye Opener show.  In the mean­time the office had sent a reporter, John Atwa­ter, a satel­lite truck and two more pho­tog­ra­phers; it was like we struck a third alarm while the fire depart­ment struck 8 alarms. We kicked butt, live on the high­way through­out our show and we had the video to back up the talk. We were walk­ing the walk and talk­ing the talk.

Under con­trol as Massport’s Engine Five plays foam on the burn­ing gaso­line bring­ing it under control.

I reflected the rest of the day about the other tanker fires I have cov­ered in my 45 years as a news pho­tog­ra­pher. The first one I cov­ered was about 40 plus years ear­lier and less than a mile from where we were. It was also north­bound on Route One and I remem­ber the fire fight­ers chas­ing rolling streams of burn­ing gaso­line down the high­way but I don’t remem­ber any struc­tures burn­ing or injuries.

Another one was on route 93 north­bound in the Read­ing area in 1978. I was wear­ing a walk­ing cast after surgery for an Achilles ten­don rup­ture.  I had a plas­tic mate­r­ial boot on it to pro­tect it from water and there I was on the high­way dodg­ing burn­ing gaso­line and water so my plas­ter cast would not melt.

In Methuen one week­end morn­ing a tanker blew up at a neigh­bor­hood gas sta­tion but his time the gaso­line was con­tained in a blown-up piece of the tanker burn­ing as if it was in a bar­beque pit. After the ini­tial explo­sion it just burned straight up for a cou­ple of hours. For the most part the fire depart­ment pro­tected the expo­sures and let it burn itself out.

A cou­ple of years ago I got a call on a Sat­ur­day morn­ing from Matt Wilder the morn­ing pro­ducer who heard the explo­sion out­side of the Chan­nel Five Stu­dios in Need­ham, on Route 128/95. He looked out the win­dow, saw the large loom up and called me. How frus­trat­ing it was as I knew no mat­ter how fast I could get there it would not be fast enough as 40 miles can only be cov­ered in no less than 30 plus min­utes. As I was cir­cling 128, watch­ing the large fun­nel cloud of smoke and I knew when I got there it would be dis­si­pated. When I did finally get there I was directed off the exit ramp. I walked down a par­al­lel street, fol­lowed the hose lines and even­tu­ally talked my way onto the high­way. It ended up being okay as I was the only one who was able to talk to the lucky unin­jured dri­ver about what happened.

I think the biggest story of a tanker rollover and explo­sion was the one in Everett a cou­ple of win­ters ago. I was lying in bed wide awake around 3AM and heard a trooper call in say­ing a tanker had just exploded at the route 99 overpass/rotary in Everett. This loca­tion over­looked an elderly res­i­den­tial apart­ment build­ing and houses.

I had to pass the scene I was at Sat­ur­day to get to this inferno.  Down Route One straight up Route 99 won­der­ing where the road­blocks would be hop­ing it was close enough to the scene to be able to do my job. I was able to work my way around sev­eral obsta­cles, ran through the snow cov­ered streets. My video showed what a great job the cops and fire­fight­ers were doing to help res­i­dents evac­u­ate their homes. There was one funny hap­pen­ing as Everett Police were help­ing the elderly from their res­i­dence, push­ing wheel­chairs and try­ing to keep every­one calm one woman said to me “this reminds me of the war years in Lon­don when I used to be taken to a shel­ter when the bomb­ings started.”  I asked her “when was the last time she had been up this late” and she smiled at me.

Below are links to great sto­ries and pho­tos done for my sta­tion WCVB-TV,

www.thebostonchannel.com.

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/28643466/detail.html

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/28648897/detail.html

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/slideshow/news/28642763/detail.html?qs=;s=1;p=/news/;dm=ss;w=400

 

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. good story…I lis­tened to this thing.….thanks for sharing.…

    • Nice blog here! Addi­tion­ally your web site a lot up fast! What host are you the usage of? Can I am get­ting your affali­ite hyper­link for your host? I want my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  2. It is my truck you pho­tographed being sprayed by Mass­port. It is one thing to pho­to­graph it, it is some­thing else to walk out of it.


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