Thursday, February 22 , 2018, 2:51 am | Fair 36º


Local News

Street Sweeper Shoots Out Flames, Catching Nearby Fence and Bushes on Fire

Thirty residents on the 1600 block of Castillo Street are evacuated after a build-up in the vehicle's fuel tanks causes a 'blowtorch effect'

After a City of Santa Barbara street sweeping truck apparently built up too much pressure or heat in its compressed natural gas fuel tanks, it shot out flames in a “blowtorch effect” on its left side Thursday morning on the 1600 block of Castillo Street.

Santa Barbara City Fire Department Capt. Mike De Ponce told Noozhawk that the trucks are designed to have the tank relief valve pop off at a certain pressure.

The department responded about 10:45 a.m. Thursday with one engine when a vehicle fire was reported, but it was upgraded to a structure fire when flames spread to the fence and bushes of a nearby residence.

The driver left the vehicle uninjured, though authorities couldn’t immediately find him when they arrived on the scene, said De Ponce, who arrived with the first of three trucks.

First responders pulled a “fast attack” to hose down the fence and bushes, stopping the residence itself from burning — though it was close enough to discolor the rain gutters.

While the flamethrower-like discharge was a design, there was a concern the tanks could explode, so about 30 residents on both sides of the 1600 block were evacuated as a precaution.

The tank was cooled off by applying water, then the team from Truck 1 turned off the ignition of the truck, which had been running after the driver got out, and found the emergency shutoff valve. The flames would have continued until the fuel was gone — as designed, De Ponce said.

Readings determined the truck’s tanks were at safe “lower explosive limits,” and residents were allowed to return to their homes.

About an hour after the initial response, the entire area smelled like propane, and the Truck 1 team climbed on top of the truck to plug the tank.

Investigators will now look into the incident, especially since there was property damage involved, De Ponce said. The truck was towed from the scene

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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