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Port of Tampa fertilizer tank catches fire twice in less than a week

TAMPA — Fire crews fought a fire Tuesday evening in the same fertilizer tank at the Port of Tampa that caught fire less than a week ago, prompting warnings at the time about its harmful fumes.

This time, authorities said, fumes from the blaze did not pose a danger to downtown residents and workers because the wind was blowing the other way.

Crews responded to the fire about 5 p.m. and doused it within two hours.

Last Thursday morning, a small fire inside the same fertilizer tank produced a cloud of toxic gas that wafted over portions of Harbour Island and downtown, leading authorities to order people to seek shelter.

The tank, operated by Gulf Sulphur just north of McClosky and Maritime boulevards, holds solid sulphur. A company performing what fire officials described at the time as "routine maintenance" on the tank accidentally sparked that blaze.

On Tuesday, fire officials had not yet determined the cause of the fire this time. But Capt. Lonnie Benniefield noted that the sulphur was being kept warm by heated coils.

"Sulphur is stored at a particular temperature — it's heated," he said. "Whenever you have heat, there is a potential for fire."

Although a partial evacuation was ordered, the port remained open.

Port of Tampa fertilizer tank catches fire twice in less than a week 08/13/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 10:33pm]
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