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Sulfur tank at Port of Tampa catches fire for second time in a week

11:16 PM, Aug 13, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA -- Sky 10 hovered over the Port of Tampa after a fire erupted inside one of the holding tanks at Gulf Sulfur. Fire crews hit the tank with water from the air as fire boats moved into position on the water.

"The fire is contained in the tank. There's no breach, so we are just trying to put this fire out safely. The tank is lined with some coils that keep the sulfur at a certain temperature, so there's always a possibility of fire at any time," said Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Lonnie Benniefield.

As fire crews tackled the flames, officials began a partial evacuation of the port and issued a caution for the surrounding area because of the potential health hazard from sulfuric fumes.

"This tank is a little bit west of us, we can't really see it from here. The wind is blowing to the southwest so it keeps us out of the smoke," said Benniefield.

This is the second time there has been a potential toxic situation at Gulf Sulfur. Last Thursday, the same tank suffered a smaller fire during routine maintenance.    

Now because of this accident, all the sulfur will have to be removed from the tank so that it can be properly inspected. The flush will take at least three days and, once empty, the tank must pass a complete inspection.

"We'll look and see if there is something that needs to be done extra to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Benniefield.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to sulfur dioxide can result in an array of adverse respiratory effects.

Click here for the EPA's full explanation on exposure to sulfur dioxide


Follow 10 News Reporter Charles Billi on twitter @Charles Billi

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