BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Quick work by firefighters who called in extra tankers to help cool a burning tar truck may have prevented an explosion Monday night.
Deputy Chief Jim Hopkins gave the following account of the incident, the Berkeley Heights Fire Department and Volunteer Rescue Squad were dispatched at 8:13 p.m. to a reported dump truck fire on Glenside Avenue in the Watchung Reservation, between the Interstate 78 East entrance ramp and Cataract Hollow Road.
When Chief Anthony Padovano arrived he determined that it was actually a tar truck which was part of the Glenside Avenue paving operation that was on fire.
The truck was heavily involved, and flames were impinging on the tank. Two engines from Berkeley Heights arrived and applied water and foam. There were no fire hydrants on Glenside Avenue, so two engines from New Providence, one from Chatham Township, one from Watchung, and one Water Tender from Warren responded to help fight the fire, Hopkins said.
Berkeley Heights firefighters also placed absorbent booms near the storm sewer catch basins in the event any of the tanks failed or leaked. The booms captured several gallons of tar, which prevented a release into the water table of the Watchung Reservation.
"This was an especially dangerous fire because the container was half full with tar. Several times, while crews were extinguishing the fire, the relief valve activated to release pressure that was building up in the tank ," he said. Fortunately Firefighters cooled the tank in time to prevent a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE). A BLEVE, is when a fire impinged or damaged tank fails to contain its internal pressure and explodes with a sudden product release, propelling tank car fragments with great force and high speed over long distances.
A small brush fire and a tree also caught on fire because of the extreme heat.
A ladder from Fanwood and a Engine from Stirling and Mountainside covered the Township during the fire.