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Thunderstorm with lightning ignites fires
by Joe Baker
May 16, 2014 | 107 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Contributed photo

A firefighter works to extinguish fires that ignited at the Supreme Vacuum Services facility on U.S. Highway 181 between Kenedy and Karnes City. Visit mySouTex.com for video from the fire.
Contributed photo A firefighter works to extinguish fires that ignited at the Supreme Vacuum Services facility on U.S. Highway 181 between Kenedy and Karnes City. Visit mySouTex.com for video from the fire.
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Smoke plumes from fires burning at the Supreme Vacuum Services site on U.S. Highway 181 between Kenedy and Karnes City Friday afternoon. DPS closed down the highway until firefighters could bring the blaze under control. Visit mySouTex.com to see video from the scene of the fire.
Smoke plumes from fires burning at the Supreme Vacuum Services site on U.S. Highway 181 between Kenedy and Karnes City Friday afternoon. DPS closed down the highway until firefighters could bring the blaze under control. Visit mySouTex.com to see video from the scene of the fire.
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KARNES COUNTY – Karnes City Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charlie Malik didn’t mince words when describing the events of Friday, May 9.

“It was like all hell broke loose,” Malik said.

To say that local emergency workers had their hands full, he added, would be a gross understatement in describing what happened in the wake of a severe thunderstorm that pass through Karnes County Friday afternoon around midday.

It began, Malik said, when local firefighters were sent to the scene of a truck rollover near Hobson about noon. When they returned to the fire station about 1 p.m. they were paged out to the scene of a fire at a saltwater disposal site on State Highway 80 about 14 miles north of Karnes City. A tank at the site was reportedly set on fire by lightning.

Once again, after returning to the station, they were sent to the scene of another reported accident on State Highway 80 just north of Karnes City. That call was cancelled when it was reported that no one was in the vehicle.

Again, after returning to the station, the firefighters were dispatched to the scene of a fire at apartments at 511 N. Browne in Karnes City. After bringing that fire mostly under control, the crew was dispatched again to Supreme Vacuum Service on U.S. Highway 181 between Kenedy and Karnes City.

When they arrived at the scene, firefighters battled multiple large fires at the oilfield facility where tanks and trucks were fully engulfed in flames.

A tower was reportedly struck by lightning at the site and somehow ignited a tank that then spread to other tanks and trucks at the site. Three pickups, four 18-wheeler trucks and a trailer were also fully engulfed in flames in addition to the tanks.

In addition to Karnes County fire departments, Stockdale and La Vernia Volunteer Fire Departments also responded to assist with the fires at Supreme Vacuum Service as well as the other fires and accidents happening simultaneously in the area.

Malik said it took about two hours to bring the fires at Supreme Vacuum Service under control, and after that, local firefighters were called out to respond to scenes where vehicles had been washed off roadways due to flash flooding in the area.

The good news, Malik explained, is that there were no injuries as a result of all the accidents and fires in Karnes County Friday afternoon and Friday evening.

Malik said the fires at Supreme Vacuum Service, in particular, placed difficult physical demands on firefighters working to bring them under control. Firefighter also had to contend with battling the blaze in heavy downpour conditions with limited visibility.

“When you fight one that long, it is tough,” Malik said, describing the scene.
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