Lightning strike causes explosion and fire at Chieftain Oil holding tank site


Yvonne Miller

Sunday evening these oil holding tanks owned by Chieftain Oil still smolder after a lightning strike caused a fire and explosion early that morning.

A trucker hauling cattle just north of Alva on U.S. Highway 281 early Sunday morning said he saw a huge fireball and smoke toward Kiowa, Kansas.

Turns out, that trucker's route took him right by the explosion site, just north of the 281 intersection with K2 Highway that turns west toward Kiowa. At 4 a.m., lightning struck an oil holding tank located there that is owned by Chieftain Oil, Ryan Molz told the Newsgram.

He said the strike started a fire and the crude oil burned causing the explosion. Molz said that three fiberglass tanks and two steel tanks were involved in the fire. He did not yet have a damage estimate, but said insurance should cover it minus the deductible. Lightning strikes to the tall oil holding tanks happen frequently, he said, but go unnoticed to the general public because they are out in the country and not beside a major highway like this one. Molz said they plan to put up a radio antennae to act as a lightning rod.

Steve Christensen, who lives about a mile away from the tanks, told Molz while he didn't hear the explosion he saw the bright flash from his window.

Molz thanked the Kiowa Fire Department for their efforts and said Chieftain Oil will donate to them.


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