Sioux Falls had potential for a major disaster on Thursday when fire and explosions rocked A-OX Welding Supply. Additional large tanks close to the fire prompted action to protect the public.

Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Chief Brad Goodroad complements the hazmat team for quickly realizing that three 1000-gallon propane tanks were in jeopardy. The decision was made to evacuate an area in a one-mile radius from the facility which Goodroad says takes strategic planning.

“When we do an evacuation like that, you don’t just start randomly at a mile. You try to go in increments. We got the first quarter mile evacuated, then the second quarter mile. After we got to a half mile evacuation, at that time we started to stabilize the incident.”

Beyond the peril of people potentially being burned or hurt by flying debris if a large tank explodes, Goodroad says air quality was also considered in the evacuation plan.

“It’s a toxic smoke. It’s not only a propane that’s burning, but also things around there structurally that are part of their filling station, the semis themselves, diesel fuel in the semis, a variety of things that you obviously you don’t want to breathe.”

Within that evacuation zone was 12th Street which was quite busy during rush hour. Sioux Falls Emergency Manager Regan Smith says once the threat was identified, that busy street was cleared.

“Initially we didn’t know the threat to the larger amount of that compressed gas. Right at 5:00 PM, we didn’t have that information so 12th Street was open. Once that expanded our hazmat team was able to do their assessment and their calculations. We’re going to inconvenience people but it’s for the public’s good.”

Both Goodroad and Smith credited the residents and business owners with their patience during the evacuation period.

No one was injured in the blaze which was contained mainly to the exterior of A-OX Welding. An exact cause of how the fire started would likely be announced over the next seven days.

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