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Big Tanks

Big Problems
Storage Tank

Historical Tank Emergencies

Jan. 21, 1924 Pittsburg, PA Roof collapse on
wooden tank roof collapsed killing 9 firefighters
Jan. 2, 1993 Jacksonville, FL Internal floating roof
gasoline tank is overfilled and burns for extended period
while multiple different attack strategies are tried
June 10, 1995 Addington, OK Crude oil tank boilover
kills 2 firefighters
July 19, 1996 Sarnia, Canada - 140 raffinate tank
extinguished in record time after 6 hour burn time
June 11, 2001 Norco, LA 270 fully involved gasoline
tank extinguished
June 13, 2010 Greensboro, NC Lightning strike
ignites storage tank which is extinguished 5 hours

Types of Tank Construction

Most Common Tank

Types Encountered

Cone Roof Tanks

External Floating Roof Tanks
Internal Floating Roof Tanks
Low Pressure Horizontal Tanks
Pressure Tanks


Cone Roof Tanks


Weak seam at roof
Conservation valve
Flame arrestor
Vapor space above
liquid level area

Open Floating Roof Tank


Shell with wind girder

Floating roof
Roof drains
Vent system
Roof legs
Ladder systems
Geodesic domes

Internal Floating Roof Tank


Shell with wind girder

Floating roof
External roof
Roof drains
Roof legs
Ladder systems

Other Types of Tanks

Low Pressure Tanks

High Pressure Sphere

High Pressure Bullets

Underground Tank

Tank Emergencies

Most Common Tank Emergencies

Tank / piping leaks without fire
Dike area fires

Without piping / equipment involvement

With piping / equipment involvement

Fixed roof vent fires

Sinking of floating roof without ignition
Floating roof seal fires
Full surface fires
Without obstructions
With obstructions

Causes Of Tank Emergencies

Tank Overfill
Piping / Transfer
System Leak
Lightning Strikes
Sunken Roof

Excessive Water

Maintenance /
Operations Activities

Heating Coil Failures

Tank Vent Failures
Tank Failure
Seam Leakage
Tank Bottom
Tank Support Failure

Tank Emergency
Decision Making


Establish Cooling Lines / Protect Exposures

Assemble Resources


Protect Exposed Equipment

Contain Fire in Tank


Let Fire Burn

Is It Acceptable?

Strategic Considerations
Capable to extinguish

Firefighting equipment resources

Water supply availability
Foam supply availability

Costs to extinguish
Risks not to extinguish
Regulatory issues
Multiple tanks involved

Tank Firefighting Progress



500 1000 gpm

500 14,000 gpm

2 3, 4

5, 6, 7.25, 8, 10 12

Pump Size

1,000 1,500 gpm

1,500 6,000 gpm

Foam Types

3%, 6%, 3% x 6%

3%, 6%, 1% x 3%, 3% x

3%, 3% x 6%

Up to 200 diameter

Up to 350 diameter

Foam Nozzle Flow Rates

Supply Hose Size

Tank Sizes

Tank Emergency
Tactics and Strategies

Tank Emergency Size Up

Problem Definition


Tank Status


Piping/Valve Status

Roof Drain
Pump Status

Dike Status

Product in dike
Dike valving

Weather Conditions

Tank Emergency Size Up

Fire Involvement




Multiple Tanks

Other Tanks
Pressure Vessels
Pipe Racks
Response Equipment

Availability of fixed

Integrity of system

Secure The Tank

Understand status of facility, tank, and
support systems
Gain control of product flow
Protect piping/valves/pumps to tank to aid
in product movement/subsurface injection
Shutdown mixers
Shutdown heaters
Consider roof drain and dike drain status

General Response Tactics

Protect exposures
Tank wall cooling should only be
completed if 100% coverage of the wall
can be cooled
Liquid levels in tanks aid the cooling
Transfer product out of involved tank.

General Response Tactics

Use wind to your advantage.
Do not overextend water on exposures.
Do not attack till adequate foam and water
supplies are on-site.
Extinguish dike fire before the tank fire.
Large streams (foot prints) are required to
overcome the thermal updraft.

General Response Tactics

Operate outside the dike area.
Monitor the level of water in the dike.
Establish water supply and foam supply
Monitor the level of water in the tank.
Consider atmosphere in roof/seal area.

Exposure Protection
Atmospheric tanks up to 100 - 500 gpm
Atmospheric tanks 100 to 150 - 1,000
Atmospheric tanks exceeding 150 - 2,000
Pressure vessels - minimum of 500 gpm at

Post Emergency Concerns

Keep the fire out
Secure the area (maintain hot zone status)
Secure the assets
Restock foam and equipment
Note: Suppressing vapors and securing the
tank after extinguishment may require
large amounts of foam.

Special Considerations

Constant air monitoring

Extremely manpower extensive
Strong ICS system required
Obtain process operations support
Obtain technical assistance
Conduct safety briefings

Sunken Roof or Spill to Dike Area

Control all ignition sources

Maintain integrity of tank / dike
Apply foam for vapor suppression
Remove product from tank / dike
Conduct constant air monitoring
Develop firefighting plan

Cone Roof Tank Fires

Cool exposed metal.

Beware of tank lids/tank integrity.
Transfer product.
Extinguish dike/ground fires.
Apply foam

Over the top application

Fixed systems
Sub-surface injection

Tank Vent Fires

Yellow Orange Flame

Indicates vapor
mixture is above
flammable limits
Extinguish fire with dry
chemical agent

Snapping Blue/Red

Indicates vapor
mixture is within
flammable limits
Pressure reduction
required through
cooling streams on

Open Floating Roof - Seal Fire

Extinguish fire with portable foam streams
or fixed systems
Provide tank side cooling to prevent reignition
Points to consider:

Chemical content in floating roof area

Possible damage to seal area
Access to seal area may be difficult

Open Floating Roof Tank Fire

Establish exposure protection streams

Attempt to pump out product.
Apply foam via portable equipment.
Sunken or cocked roof will severely
hamper extinguishing operations.
Beware of tank dike problems.

Internal Floating Roof Tank Fire

Apply cooling streams.
Attempt to pump off product.
Foam may be applied via fixed equipment
or through eye brow vents.
Very difficult fires to extinguish.
Special fabricated equipment may be

Horizontal Tank Fire

Attack fire from sides of tank.
Apply cooling streams to all exposed metal
including tank support.
Flush ground fires from under tanks.
Typically fire will be from piping system
rather than from tank itself.

Leaking Tank Shell/Piping

Control ignition sources.
Apply foam to spill areas.
Attempt to displace product with water if
material has low specific gravity.
Pump out product in tank.
Recover leaked product.

Pressurized Tank Fires

Do not extinguish pressure fed fires unless
they can be isolated
Establish large cooling streams
De-pressure tank
Watch for signs of BLEVES

Calculating Application Rate

Determine square footage

3.14 x radius squared

Determine foam application rate

Foam Application = Area x Rate (.16-.24)

Determine Required Foam Solution

Required Solution = Rate x Duration

Determine Foam Concentrate Quantity

Concentrate = Solution x Foam Percentage

Calculations for 150 Gasoline

Floating Roof Tank
Surface area = 3.14 x 75 x 75 = 17,662 square
Foam rate = 17,662 x .2 = 3532 gpm
Required Solution = 3532 x 65 = 229,580
gallons of foam solution
Concentrate Required = 229,580 x .03 = 6,887
gallons of 3% foam concentrate
These calculations are for tank extinguishment

NFPA Foam Requirements

.10 gpm/sq. ft. for fixed system
applications for hydrcarbons
.30 gpm/sq. ft. for fixed system application
for seal protection
.10 gpm/sq. ft. for subsurface application
.10 gpm to .16 gpm/sq. ft. for portable
application for hydrocarbon spills

NFPA Foam Requirements

.16 gpm/sq. ft. for portable application for
hydrocarbon storage tanks
.20 gpm/sq. ft. minimum required rate for
portable application for polar solvent storage
Note: Williams Fire Control recommendations

Up to 150 diameter 0.16

150 to 200 diameter 0.18
201 to 250 diameter 0.20
251 to 300 diameter 0.22
Greater than 301 diameter 0.24 or greater

NFPA Foam Rate Durations

Flammable liquid spill - 15 minutes
Storage tank with product with flash point
of 100 - 200 degrees - 50 minutes
Storage tank with product with flash point
of < 100 degrees - 65 minutes
Storage tank with crude oil product - 65

Special Considerations

Special Considerations
Special Hazards


Facility Impact

Value of Tank and

Environmental Impact
Adverse Public

Environmental reporting
Storage tank
emergencies are HAZ
MAT emergencies
Water runoff - OPA
90/Facility Response
Foam Cost - $12 - $30
per gallon

Items To Consider
Storage tank
emergencies will be
government regulated
Major risk factors for tank
Production loss
Asset loss
Public Image
Fixed equipment must be
backed up by portable

Extinguishment of large
floating roof tanks and
ethanol tanks largely
Pre-planning, training,
and exercising of plans is
essential to success
Pre-fire planning is
essential for all tank
On-site visits need to be
routinely conducted

Items To Consider
Lack of knowledge in key
areas will hinder
response to tank

Foam chemistry
Foam application
High volume water supplies
Tank design
Storage tank fixed fire
suppression systems

Foam chambers
Subsurface foam systems
Seal area systems

Tank emergencies are

much different than
structure fires

Initial operations are

defensive in nature
Extended operations may
take place before
extinguishment is started
Specialized equipment will
be required for success

Instructor Contact Information

Chief Rick Haase
ConocoPhillips Wood River Refinery
P.O. Box 76
Roxana, IL 62084
Phone: 618-255-2624