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Spokane fuel center fire damage is widespread

July 25, 2007|From the Associated Press

SPOKANE, WASH. — Investigators suspect someone started an enormous fire at a fuel distribution center that destroyed buildings and sent thousands of gallons of petroleum products into storm sewers and the Spokane River, the fire chief said Tuesday.

A day after the blaze rocked Whitley Fuel with several explosions and damaged surrounding businesses and vehicles with its intense flames, the state Department of Ecology tried to assess the contamination.

"We have no idea how much oil escaped," department spokeswoman Jani Gilbert said.

Crews were using a vacuum truck to suck oil out of sewers, she said.

A helicopter was hired to fly along the Spokane River on Tuesday, looking for pooled pockets of oil, Gilbert said. Crews also were walking along the river looking for oil.

Investigators had not identified any suspects in the fire, which caused at least $10 million in damage, Fire Chief Bobby Williams said.

Firefighters continued to douse hot spots Tuesday, and some 55-gallon barrels of fuel exploded in the ruins, Williams said.

Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries.

More than a dozen vehicles in parking areas were destroyed.

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