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Cleanup efforts continue at site of fuel fire

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Oil cleanup along Bear Creek is underway Friday at the pedestrian bridge near Hawthorne Park in Medford.

State and federal agencies are working with contractors to clean up oil that leaked after a fire at the Carson-Pacific Pride commercial fuel station that began Tuesday evening and burned well into Wednesday.

The goal of officials working on the stretch of South Central Avenue between East 13th Street and East Barnett Road is to make sure the area is safe and accessible — and to reach that point sooner rather than later, even if it’s only a portion of the street, at least for the short term.

On Friday afternoon, the city announced that one lane of South Central was open between 12th and Bank streets to allow access to businesses in the area. Central Avenue will remain closed from Bank Street to East Barnett Road, officials said.

Seven businesses near the station have ceased operations as a result of the fire, which destroyed four buildings that held those businesses. The fire affected other businesses on and near that stretch of South Central Avenue because the area remained inaccessible.

The city reiterated Friday that it will continue efforts to bring together businesses with Oregon Department of Environmental Quality liaisons to help owners gain access to their buildings. City government has also partnered with Business Oregon to help provide response guidance for local businesses.

Officials said Friday it’s hard to determine how much oil made its way through storm drains and into Bear Creek.

Tall fuel containers at the Pacific Pride site, each of which holds up to 18,000 gallons of petroleum products, were largely unaffected, officials said. But up to 12,600 gallons in containers elsewhere on the property disappeared through evaporation or made its way off-site to Bear Creek and other nearby areas.

Most of that product was lube oil, along with 40 gallons of gasoline, 60 gallons of kerosene and 80 gallons of diesel. Much of that was in plastic containers and totes, though the diesel was in a truck.

While the preferred cleanup of oil is no cleanup required, lube oil isn’t quite as hard to deal with, officials with state and federal agencies pointed out Friday at the cleanup staging area outside a former Wendy’s restaurant.

“It’s thick and sticky,” said Geoff Brown, Oregon’s on-scene coordinator for the Department of Environmental Quality.

“A lot of oil disappears in the fire itself,” said Brooks Stanfield, a Seattle-based federal on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency. “We believe the vast majority was consumed in the fire.”

Medford police and fire investigators continue to seek help from the public about what happened and who was responsible. No arrests had been made as of Friday afternoon.

Anyone with information about the Pacific Pride fire was asked to call police at 541-770-4783 and refer to case No. 22-6203.

Reach reporter Terri Harber at tharber@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.