Chemical Fire Out after 23 Hours

Monday, July 8, 2013 @ 05:07 PM gHale


A faulty compressor could be the cause of a chemical fire in Rapho Township, Lancaster County, PA, that forced evacuations in the area and severely injured one person Tuesday.

The fire started at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and firefighters finally extinguished it around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, said Mount Joy Assistant Fire Chief Bill Hall.

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The fire started when a train car carrying 30,000 gallons of butane was transferring the highly flammable fuel to a transfer station in Rapho Township. John Wolgemuth, of Mount Joy, the worker who was trying to transfer the fuel, suffered severe injuries to his upper body in the fire. Wolgemuth ended up transported to the Lehigh Valley Burn Center.

Wolgemuth suffered burns over 47 percent of his body, his brother said. He is in an induced coma and may remain that way for two weeks. He will be in the hospital for more than a month.

Fire crews doused the area throughout the day Tuesday to keep other tankers cool and prevent them from exploding. Emergency officials at the scene, compared the situation to a lighter that would continue to burn fuel until the source depleted. Nine rail cars, some carrying butane and others propane, suffered exposure to the flames.

About 150 firefighters from three counties responded. Experts from outside the area are investigating the incident. Officials said early indications point to a failed compressor as the cause of the blaze.



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