The Bloomfield Township Fire Department’s drone camera captured this image of the tanker explosion that occurred the evening of July 11.

The Bloomfield Township Fire Department’s drone camera captured this image of the tanker explosion that occurred the evening of July 11.

Photo provided by the Bloomfield Township Fire Department

Tanker fire causes pricey cleanup but no injuries

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 20, 2020


FRANKLIN/BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP —The good news is that, in the aftermath of the fuel tanker explosion that occurred the evening of July 11 on the Interstate 75 ramp to Opdyke Road, there are no fatalities or even serious injuries.

The bad news is that there’s a heck of a mess to clean up, according to officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The tanker reportedly rolled over and exploded as it was exiting the freeway at Opdyke in Bloomfield Township at 8:30 p.m. According to Bloomfield Township Fire Department Deputy Chief John LeRoy, it’s unknown what caused the rollover.

The accident caused the tanker to explode into a fireball fueled by the 13,500 gallons of unleaded gasoline that were in tow. An enormous fireball and cloud of smoke could be seen from a distance, and for a brief time, the Fire Department advised nearby residents to shelter in place for fear of potential contaminants in the air.

“During the entire incident, the air quality was monitored by the Oakway hazmat team to ensure the (local) residents were safe from the smoke conditions,” LeRoy said.

Roadways to and from the site of the accident were closed while the Bloomfield Hills Fire Department and participating mutual aid agencies worked to secure the area and put out the massive fire. LeRoy said fire control units were posted in nearby neighborhoods and wooded areas to ensure the fire didn’t spread, while personnel on the scene used firefighting foam to extinguish the flames.

“Gasoline is lighter than water and will float on the surface of water (so that means) firefighting foam has to be used to make water effective in fighting the fire. The amount of foam needed for a fire of this magnitude is only available on specialized vehicles, mostly used at airports or specially designed trailers. The Oakway mutual aid group has an agreement with a company (…) that has such a resource,” LeRoy said. “When you start adding water to the fire, it has to flow somewhere, so we have to make sure the runoff doesn’t go into storm drains and spread the problem.”

No first responders or bystanders were injured during the incident, and the driver — a 50-year-old Detroit man — was able to extricate himself from the truck and was treated at the scene by paramedics. He was later transported to a local hospital for non-serious injuries.

Though the fire was out by 11:30 p.m. that evening, the Opdyke Road exit of the eastbound business loop where the accident occurred will be completely closed for at least a few more days, according to Diane Cross, the spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Metro Region.

“The concrete is being removed — about 150 feet by 27 feet — and will be replaced,” Cross said. “About 180 yards of contaminated soil has been removed, and topsoil is being put back. It’s expected to take up to two weeks to be completed but could be sooner.”

Then comes the obvious question: Who will foot the bill for all that work?

“Well, the trucking company is cooperating and is paying for the cleanup, with the exception of the roadway,” Cross said. “MDOT has to do the work to MDOT standards, and we will then pursue the cost from the trucking company’s insurance company.”

Those road costs, she said, will be about $97,500.

But in all, what could’ve been a tragic accident turned out as good as could be expected, thanks to a little help from friends, like police and fire response units from Waterford, Southfield, Birmingham, West Bloomfield, Auburn Hills, Madison Heights, Royal Oak, Ferndale, Rochester Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Troy, Oakland County and Star EMS.

“There was great cooperation among all the agencies,” said Bloomfield Township Fire Chief Mike Morin in a prepared statement. “We got a good response from everyone. It just fell into place.”