BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Boardman Fire Chief George Brown said mere seconds made all the difference for the driver of a tractor-trailer that caught fire and exploded Tuesday morning on U.S. Route 224.
The semi had just filled up with compressed natural gas before the driver noticed something was wrong with the performance of the truck.
The driver pulled into the Giant Eagle parking lot across from the Boardman Plaza, where the rig caught fire. An explosion was heard coming from the truck.
“We cooled the outer areas, but we couldn’t put it out completely because it had just filled up with a complete load of compressed natural gas,” Brown said. “It was kind of dangerous, but our guys did the right thing. We protected the area and kept the tanks cool until the gas bled off.”
The driver escaped, but the truck was destroyed and smoke could be seen pouring from the debris.
Brown said it will be a while before the exact cause of the fire is known. He said it was a brand new truck belonging to R & J Trucking and was built to run on CNG, not retro-fitted with the technology.
This was the first time a fire of this type has happened in the area, but CNG is growing in popularity.
A bill at the statehouse right now would offer big incentives for buying or converting cars to run on CNG. One of the bill’s sponsors, State Rep. Sean O’Brien, D-Hubbard, said the fire does not change anything because CNG is not only cheaper, it’s also safer than gasoline.
“Compared to gas and diesel, this is a much safer fuel. It’s environmentally safer. And we’re going to have mistakes, but that happens,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien’s bill should come up for a vote soon, and he said the Valley is already moving forward with CNG. One new filling station is planned for Girard, and Brown said two are on their way to Boardman.
The fire chief said fighting a CNG fire was a new experience for his crew, but it’s something they have to be prepared for.
“I will be following up with the CNG Association to see what advice they have and what could be the cause,” Brown said.
He said it could take a while to determine the exact cause of the fire.