Lightning storms cause fires at Eddy County oil well sites

New Mexico

Firefighters in southeast New Mexico were busy overnight, as a lightning storms hit oil sites, sending tanks full of chemical-filled water up in flames.

“In southeast New Mexico, you can almost guarantee when the lightning comes, tank battery fires will come with it,” said Travis Olbert, Eddy County Fire Service Training Division.

Many Eddy County Fire officials, like Olbert, worked almost to sunrise Tuesday morning to put out a series of tank battery fires at oil well sites.

“The fires were ignited by the static electricity from the lightning storm that came through,” said Olbert.

At least eight different well sites were struck by lightning.

The first flames broke out just after midnight. It took fire officials anywhere from four minutes to four hours to put out each blaze.

Olbert said when they got back to the office, they could see the path of the storm.

“Started looking at where all of our fires were, you could pretty much take a ruler from the first fire to the last fire and draw a line,” said Olbert.

It took five departments to battle the fires.

The biggest one was off Bumpy Road in Malaga. It destroyed nine tanks, which hold a highly flammable combination of water and chemicals used in the oil fields.

Olbert said at another fire, lids exploded off two of the tanks.

“Thankfully enough, being at night, a lot of hands weren’t out around the field,” said Olbert.

No one was injured.

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