Friday, February 4, 2011

Fuel-truck fire kills Carey man

Cause of explosion in Picabo still unknown

Express Staff Writer

A fire resulting from the ignition of a fuel trailer rages at the Picabo Ranch west of Carey on Wednesday afternoon. The cause of the fire is unknown, but the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office reported that the trailer ignited during a fuel transfer between the two Adamson’s Inc. oil trucks. Investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office is ongoing. Photo by David N. Seelig

A fuel trailer ignited and exploded Wednesday at a ranch in Picabo, killing Carey resident Craig Adamson, 53, and destroying two fuel tankers.

The fire at Picabo Ranch started at about 2:30 p.m., according to the Blaine County Sheriff's Office.

Adamson, whose family owns the Adamson's Inc. fuel and oil company, and employee Lee Andreas were transferring fuel between the two trucks when a trailer attached to Adamson's vehicle caught fire, the Sheriff's Office reported. The fire spread from the trailer to both trucks.

"There was this huge kaboom," said Jan Peppler, a Picabo resident whose property is adjacent to the ranch. "I ran outside and that's when I saw the smoke."

Adamson, who was on top of the trailer at the time, was reportedly killed instantly.

Andreas was caught between the two trucks and was knocked down by the explosion. Though his jacket ignited, those flames were quickly extinguished. Andreas was examined on the scene and refused transport to a medical facility.

The trailer fire continued burning until about 10 p.m., Peppler said. Her report was confirmed by neighbor Corey Webb, a blacksmith with a shop near the site of the accident.

"We could see it glowing out of our window," Webb said.

Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman said his crews responded to a call for mutual aid from the Carey Fire Department at 2:48 p.m. The Friedman Memorial Airport Fire Department and the Blaine County Sheriff's Office also responded to the call.

Crews were called off the fire by 7:30 p.m., but the Carey Quick Response Team was called back at about 8:45 p.m. when Adamson's truck reignited. Peppler said she witnessed the final explosion.

"That was really freaky, against that dark sky," she said. "That's when I finally left my house."

Lassman said the flames burned for so long because of the nature of the fuel-charged fire. The main goals of the crews, Lassman said, were to shrink the blaze to a manageable size and watch it closely, rather than extinguish the flames.

"It's so hard to extinguish. You have to almost smother it," he said. "There was so much fuel, it was easier to stand back and keep people safe."

Lassman said the second truck likely reignited due to radiant heat. While crews were on the scene, they doused the second tanker with water to prevent such an occurrence.

"It had some fuel in it, so they were keeping it cool during the whole operation," he said. "You don't want that exploding, [but] you've got to let the fuel burn off."

Lassman said the tankers needed to burn off some of the fuel to let the coroner retrieve Adamson's body. Sheriff's Lt. Jay Davis said crews were prevented from reaching the body until 7 p.m. because of the massive fire, extreme heat and fear of further explosions.

Davis said the burning fuel was a mix of oil, diesel and unleaded gas that was being transported to the ranch to thin out some diesel fuel that had gelled in cold temperatures. Davis said he didn't know how much fuel was involved in the inferno.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Idaho State Fire Marshal's Office. Ivan Hibbert, deputy state fire marshal, was on the scene today but was unavailable for comment.

Webb said he felt the explosion from his shop, located about a quarter mile from the feedlot where the accident occurred.

"The explosion rocked my shop, rattling all the windows and doors," he said. "I thought, 'Oh no, someone's stove exploded.'"

Peppler said she thought something had hit her house when she heard the blast, and her neighbors had similar theories.

"When I went down to the Rancher's Supply, they said they thought a plane had crashed," she said.

Pepper said she heard the first explosion and left her house in time to see the second truck ignite.

"There was all this smoke, unbelievable smoke," she said. "I didn't know that metal could just disintegrate like that."

Both Peppler and Webb said the accident and Adamson's death would have a profound impact on the community.

"It's pretty quiet out here, so something like this is big news," Webb said.

Adamson's family owns not only Adamson's Inc., but a convenience store and fuel station in downtown Carey.

Adamson is survived by his wife, Betty, and their seven children. The funeral service for Adamson will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 7 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Carey.

Adamson was a Carey City Council member for nine years, during which time he managed the Carey airstrip.

Carey Mayor Randy Patterson said that Adamson, an emergency medical technician, was partially responsible for the creation of the Carey Quick Response Unit and served as one of the first instructors.

"He was very community-minded," Patterson said. "He's going to be missed."

Katherine Wutz:

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