What started as a routine call to a burning vehicle turned into a frightening near miss for Gaston firefighters on Thursday.
They’d just arrived and started pulling out hoses when the vehicle’s gas tank ruptured.
Flames shot more than 60 feet into the air and then sparked a brush fire.
“They said it was something to see,” said Chris Stowe, public information officer for Crowders Mountain Fire & Rescue. “Until you see something like that up close, it’s hard to believe.”
Stowe said a man driving the van on York Highway near Robinson Road smelled smoke around 3:20 p.m., and pulled over to dial 911. When crews arrived, they found the van engulfed in flames.
As firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze, one of the vehicle’s two gas tanks ruptured, sending a tower of flames into the air and scorching trees. “It was at least 60 feet,” Stowe said. “Everybody was shocked.”
The blaze spread to the adjacent woods and a hillside and caught trash and debris on fire at a nearby scrap metal business.
Stowe said firefighters stayed focused on their jobs. One crew battled the vehicle fire while the other crew fought the brush fire. Fifteen firefighters worked for about 25 minutes to put out the fires.
Northbound York Highway was shut down for about two hours.
Stowe said the Gaston County Fire Investigations Task Force is investigating the cause of the fire.
Meanwhile, he’s thankful nobody got hurt.
“Firefighters were less than 20 feet away from the vehicle when the tank ruptured,” Stowe said. “This could have been catastrophic if they had been right up on it.”