With a thousand degree fire burning all around them, a private team of firefighters from a Texas company called Specialized Response Solutions will wear special suits and use special equipment to drill a hole in the bottom of the tanker. The hose they connect should allow the liquid propane to drain into a large pit and burn off there. The Lincoln Fire Chief is Dave Whitt. He says, in the mean time, allowing the fire to continue to burn at the tanker is actually safer than putting it out.
DAVE WHITT: "We have an ignition source and the fire is contained to where it is. The last thing I want to do is have propane, which is heavier than air, leak into somebody's home, leak into a car or leak into somebody smoking a cigarette or anything else like that and causing it to ignite and flash back to where we have a great big problem now as compared to a contained problem."
Schools in the Western Placer Unified School district will not be in session this week, even if the fire is out by morning, as firefighters hope.
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The specialized response team from Texas has completed building a retention pond near the railroad tank car. Workers are preparing the surface of the tank car in order to tap into it, using the "hot tap" process. They will connect pipe to the tank car in order to drain the propane into the retention pond, where it will be burned off. Residents can expect to see dense black smoke during the procedure, this is normal. If the plan stays on schedule the tank car is likely to be emptied by tomorrow morning. During the hot tap operation, fire crews will continue to apply 5,000 gallons of water per minute to keep the tank cool in order to reduce the internal pressure.
The mandatory evacuation order of 4,800 homes and businesses in Lincoln remains in place and will be reassessed after the hot tap process begins. The Red Cross continues to support evacuees with multiple services out of the three established evacuation shelters.
"Based on the estimated quantity and burn rate of the propane, there appears to be no significant impact to air quality or health risks due to toxins at this time," explained Tom Christofk, Placer County Air Pollution Control Officer.
Lincoln schools will be closed the remainder of the week and anticipate opening on Monday. City Hall is closed. There is no anticipated time for reopening. For up to date information visit www.ci.lincoln.ca.us or call (916) 625-5088.