Police, fire, and rescue crews are working together at Marathon Oil storage facility in Roanoke County after a malfunction of the equipment inside a fuel tank. It happened just before 2 p.m. Monday on Terminal Road just off of Starkey Road in southwest Roanoke County.
Roanoke County Fire and Rescue crews evacuated about a half of a mile around the area where it happened. We spoke with several people who live near the Marathon plant who didn't find out about the situation first-hand from responders, but through Facebook or other neighbors. Police say they have notified and cleared all areas that could be affected or could negatively affect the situation. They say the scene is secure.
The fuel tank malfunction left fuel vapors trapped under pressure in a 40,000-gallon tank. Police were called to the scene after workers inside the plant were filling the tank with 93 high-premium octane and noticed a spark inside the tank. Roanoke County Fire and EMS Chief Rick Burch says crews are working with Marathon to fix the problem.
"The concern is if there was some vapors released and there was an ignition source, then of course we could have a fire," Burch says. "We feel pretty confident now what they are going to do, and us standing by, hopefully we can prevent that."
Although police say the scene is secure, people in the community have concerns. We spoke with a mother who lives in an apartment across the street within walking distance from the Marathon plant. She says although she hasn't been evacuated yet, she may take her kids and leave the area for the night.
"I'm a mother of three. I have three kids under the age of 5, so to think about fire trucks and big gas tanks, it is a concern," Kristie Franklin says.
To prevent any possibility of igniting those vapors, police have stopped all trains through the area to prevent any sparks from the ground and the air.
"We have requested there be no flyovers or helicopters or anything like that," Birch says. "If vapors were to come out, they're going to go up, and we don't want anything over the immediate area."
Birch says crews will be working through the night.