The golf course is usually a place people go to relieve stress, but Tuesday afternoon a natural gas pump storage tank near the golf course was the source of stress for Craig Fire/Rescue and the Moffat County Sheriff's Department.
The tank, or heater/treater, caught fire about 4 p.m. near the Yampa Valley Golf Course, creating a blaze with flames that rose 30 feet into the air. Intense heat from the blaze could be felt several hundred yards from the source. Craig Fire/Rescue responded with every vehicle that they had personnel to man. After a brief attempt to cool down the tall, cylinder tanks engulfed in flame, firefighters decided it would be better to let the fire burn off than battle the crude oil-fueled blaze.
"The initial reaction was to try and cool down the tanks," said Fire Chief Roy Mason. "Then the pumper told us that there was a possibility of the tank blowing up if for some reason it couldn't vent fast enough. At that point we decided that we would let it burn itself out. It wasn't worth anyone getting hurt."
Firefighters stayed on scene until 7:30 p.m. while the fuel burned off to make sure there weren't any grass fires or fuel leaks into the Yampa River, less than 500 yards away from the tank. Once the fire burned down enough, Craig Fire/Rescue went in with dry chemical fire extinguishers and put out some of the remaining hot spots.
According to Mason, the fire was caused by a malfunction in what is referred to as a fire box. The fire box is a component of the pumping equipment that heats up material pumped from the ground so it can be separated.
"It was just one of those things that malfunctions due to age," said Mason. "We never suspected anything suspicious."
Pumping equipment that caught fire is owned by Big West Oil and Gas and supplies natural gas to Buck Peck Propane Plant located near the Knez Divide, south of Craig. Hank Watson, plant manager, was one of the first to discover the fire.
"When I left the plant I saw something aglow over in that area," said Watson. "It was just a little fire when I saw it."
Sheriff's Department detective K.C. Hume and Sgt. Rick Holford were the first on scene. They were surprised by the size of the fire.
"Any time you have a fire you face a potentially dangerous situation," said Hume. "The fact that this fire involved a well operation made this fire a little more precarious."
According to Mason, the fire damage to the pumping operation was extensive.