Oil cleanup remains after Pacific Pride fire
A fire that began Tuesday night involving a Medford petroleum business ended Thursday morning, but the fallout from the disaster continues.
City officials say the scene of the fire at Carson Pacific Pride remains unsafe for motorists and pedestrians, and wildlife in the area may yet bear the brunt of the damage.
The Environmental Protection Agency, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and contractor NEXGEN Logistics are jointly responding to the public health and environmental impacts from the oil spill caused by the fire at the Carson Pacific Pride commercial fueling station at 936 S. Central Ave., according to Medford officials.
Environmental crews deployed oil-absorbing booms on and near Bear Creek — in Medford near Jackson Street and in Central Point near Beebe Road, according to the city.
State and federal wildlife officials, meanwhile, are responding to the oil spill’s impacts to fish and wildlife, which included oiled waterfowl observed in Bear Creek, according to the city.
The EPA is setting up community air monitors in the area, and city officials say the scene “remains dangerous and is off-limits to the public.”
EPA spokesman Bill Dunbar said in an email Thursday that the EPA monitors are testing for toxic vapors around the perimeter of the Pacific Pride work zone.
A key compound the EPA is watching for is benzene, which Dunbar described as “the most toxic component of petroleum products.”
“So far, we have detected no benzene throughout the response,” Dunbar wrote, adding that volatile organic compound levels have been “very low” at about 500 parts per billion.
Prior to the Tuesday night fire, the property at 936 S. Central Ave. housed tens of thousands of gallons of petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel and kerosene, and more than seven-dozen 55-gallon drums of gear oil.
According to current Jackson County property data and archived Polk city directories dating back to the early 1930s, the property had been used by petroleum companies for more than nine decades.
Property data from the Jackson County Assessor’s Office shows the address, with a dozen fuel tanks and a combined storage capacity of 159,000 gallons of fuel, was first incorporated in 1926.
The 1930-31 city directory shows 936 S. Central Ave. as belonging to General Petroleum Corp of California.
Other commercial fuel equipment on the 19,534-square-foot property included a leakage monitor system, a vapor recovery system, air and water service.
The Medford Fire Department completed mop-up work of the fire Thursday morning, wrapping up a day-and-a-half fire. All fire equipment and personnel have since demobilized.
As of Thursday, South Central Avenue remained closed between East 13th Street and East Barnett Road.
North Riverside Avenue was fully reopened, but the city asked drivers to use extreme caution “as there are multiple crews on site continuing the investigation and clean-up.”
Medford police are still investigating the cause of the fire, and no arrests had been made as of Thursday evening. The police department asked anyone who may have information about the fire to call them at 541-770-4783, and reference case No. 22-6203.
According to police and dispatch records, the fire was reported shortly after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday as a warming fire near the railroad tracks.
The night of the fire, the weather was unseasonably cold and wet for the month of April, but according to city of Medford spokeswoman Kristina Wilson, the city did not declare a severe weather event Tuesday because the forecast was outside the threshold for allowing a nonprofit to use city-owned property for a warming shelter.
City policy since November 2020 has been to declare severe events for cold weather when the forecasted low drops to either 25 degrees or below, or 32 degrees or below when accompanied by “considerations that would reasonably cause a person to be at increased risk of exposure to cold” such as wind, dense fog or precipitation.
The National Weather Service almanac for Medford shows that April 13 saw 0.36 inches of precipitation and a low of 38 degrees.
Forecast lows Wednesday through Friday met the city’s qualifications, according to Wilson, and the city activated low-barrier warming shelters hosted by the nonprofit Access Wednesday and Thursday nights at the Medford Navigation Center, 685 Market St., Medford.
For text alerts on when Medford opens severe weather event shelters, text “MED4SHELTERS“ to 888777.
Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.