Wood Co. fire marshal confirms cause of Pearce Petroleum fire - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Wood Co. fire marshal confirms cause of Pearce Petroleum fire

(Photo Source: Bobby Hollis) (Photo Source: Bobby Hollis)
(Photo Source: John Whitney) (Photo Source: John Whitney)
MINEOLA, TX (KLTV) -

Wood County fire officials say spilled gasoline and a riding lawnmower are to blame for the fire that ignited Pearce Petroleum in Mineola Sunday night.

The fire started around 8 p.m. on South Johnson Street, just one block south of downtown Mineola. It took firefighters four hours to put it out.

Wood County Fire Marshal Randy Selman says that the owner of the property spilled gas on the ground when fixing a riding lawnmower. He used starter fluid to try to start the mower, and the mower backfired. This caused the gas on the ground to ignite, and the fire quickly spread to the building.

Mineola Fire Department spokesperson Steve Finley says super unleaded gasoline was what many was burning at Pearce Petroleum Sunday night. The blaze was hard to miss as citizens snapped photo after photo.

"I saw nothing but flames," says Ty Moss. Ty and his mother drove directly to the fire to check on his grandfather's shop located just across the street.

"I was worried," he says. "I didn't know if my grandpa was here and if he was here it would be really bad. I was worried we'd loose all the motors and machinery," he says.

His grandfather has been making and repairing racecar engines at his shop on South Johnson Street since the mid 60s.

Officials say there isn't much to worry about now that the threat of more fire and explosions is gone. Now it's a matter of cleaning up.

"After they clean it up, we have to begin the testing process. Based on the results of that test, the clean up will continue day after day until they get down to the soil that's not contaminated," says Finley.

That contaminated soil will be properly disposed of by hazmat crews.

"We had to apply a large volume of water last night and that consequently leads to a large volume of run off containing petroleum products," says Finley.

Officials say it may look like a mess, but it's a job well done by fire crews.

"The Mineola Fire Department, with the assistance of Lindale, Hanesville and Quitman, put up a very extraordinary fire fight. Without their efforts this very easily could have turned into a catastrophe that burned the southern half of Mineola off the map," Finley says.

And another catastrophe avoided if you ask Ty, "I say we were very lucky, we were very lucky because if we would have lost [the shop], we would have lost basically everything," he says.

Officials say Pearce Petroleum's main office building is destroyed but some vehicles and containers have been salvaged from the property. The owner tells officials he is already making plans to continue business as soon as possible.

TCEQ has surveyed the property and determined the fuel spillage was confined to the property. They tell Wood County officials there is no risk for contamination of local water.

Copyright 2012 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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