Oil tank fire sends 3 Gilbert firefighters to hospital

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

GILBERT, Ariz. -- Three Gilbert firefighters were transported to a hospital while working an oil tank fire at a Salt River Project plant Monday morning.

A hydraulic line for a 240-gallon oil tank broke and caught fire inside one of the operations buildings at the power plant near Val Vista Drive and Warner Road, according to Brian Ruffentine with the Gilbert Fire Department.

"Basically, a high-pressure leak," said Gilbert Fire Capt. Mike Connor. "One of the pipes burst and it has a tank reservoir that leaked out some hydraulic fluid that's used for cooling."

Without the cooling, Connor said temperatures inside the building reached 1,000 degrees. Because of the heat and lack of oxygen inside, both Gilbert and Mesa fire departments rotated firefighters.

SRP shut down the equipment and firefighters quickly put out the fire.

Three firefighters were exposed to the oil and were transported to Mercy Gilbert Medical Center for irritation to their eyes and skin.

"Basically, the oil is a mild irritant," Connor said. "[The firefighters] got some on their skin and had some eye issues. Everything seems minor. They're going to be OK. It was precautionary as to why we transported them."

Ruffentine said there was no threat to nearby residents and there was no disruption of power in the area.

Fire crews are still working to cool the oil down before they leave the scene.

SRP said the plant is a seasonal natural gas facility that only operates during peak winter and summer months.