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Spartanburg, SC Refueling Fire!
Revisited with Mr. Sierra May 15, 2002
by Steve Fowler

The original story ran the week of the accident. We went back to Mr. Sierra's Restaurant for some fine Mexican Food and took the opportunity to listen to his story again with some details we had not heard or asked at the time along with a few newly added tidbits. By the way, Jan says, try the "Chicken and Rice."

Mr. Sierra said that soon after his story ran in the local news, a woman (who gave no name) called him at his restaurant and said: This happened to me last December at the "Super K-Mart" and no-one believes me." He told her that he believed her. She said she was not hurt since the fire was put out so quickly but everyone said she must have been smoking. Neither Mr. Sierra nor this woman have ever smoked. Mr. Sierra said he went by the BP station where his accident happened - now in his new car. He purchased gas at a different island. The burned one still shows severe signs of the fire. He asked the lady at the station, "What happened?" He was told, "Some Mexican was smoking!" They did not even remember him and had their story revised to fit their needs. It seems that it is better for people to hear "smoking" than "static" because it makes more sense in their minds due to their inability to understand and accept the dangers. This is the "Conspiracy of Silence" of which I have spoken in the past.

I asked Mr. Sierra to explain the initial fire he saw when he heard the "spark". He said it was a flash like a transparent ball that came up out of the fuel port and disappeared. Then there was fire around the fuel door which drifted downward like a "waterfall." As he pulled the nozzle out, he sprayed fuel with transparent flames into the back of bed of the truck for an instant before he dropped the nozzle and ran to get hid daughter out of the truck. By the time he was getting his daughter out of the passenger side of the truck, the truck bed was on fire with orange flames and orange/blue flames were coming up from underneath the truck "licking at his legs." He ran with his daughter for just a few feet before the main explosion erupted.

Mr. Sierra has a sister named Guadeloupe who was born on the date of the sighting of the Virgin. Maybe there is a saint watching him now.

Original Story
by Jennifer Hazen February 20,2002

Photo Gallery of the Truck and the BP Station

The proud owner of a new Toyota Tundra truck stopped Monday morning, Feb. 18, 2002, to refuel for the first time. It turned out to be a day he will not soon forget!

Ignacio Sierra stopped at the BP Station at I85 & Hwy. 221 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, around 8:30am, with his 6 year old daughter, Esperanza. Mr. Sierra is the owner of "Nachos" Mexican Restaurant on Hwy. 9 at Lake Bowen. (great food, by the way)

Mr. Sierra stepped out of his truck to begin refueling. When he reached $8 of fuel he stopped to check his wallet to make sure he had enough money for the purchase. He went back and opened the door of his truck, kneeled in the seat to reach the visor where he kept his wallet. He saw that he had $20 so he began to pump more gas. That is when Mr. Sierra heard a loud POP! He looked down to see flames shooting out of the gas tank of his truck.

Mr Sierra then stated: "I pulled the nozzle out and flames were shooting from it. I threw it to the ground and it was shooting flames under the truck. I ran around to the other side to get my daughter out. She was crying and I was screaming something like 'it's ok, I'll get you!' I then ran away from the fire, carrying my daughter. Then I heard the tires blow."

When Mr. Sierra ran to the otherside of the BP station, he was met by the station attendant screaming, "Somebody call 911!" We found out later upon interviewing the fire chief that the fuel cut off was right beside the cash register where the attendant had been standing. In the panic of the moment, the fuel was not shut off until the fire marshall came and turned it off. As Mr. Sierra stated, he pumped $8 worth of gas but the report optained by the fire marshall shows over 25 gallons was pumped. That means aproximately 17 gallons was pumped after Mr. Sierra's truck caught fire and he dropped the nozzle. The question remains in our minds as to how the nozzle continued to pump gasoline while on the ground. These nozzles did not have auto latching handles.

The ESD Journal spoke with Mr. Sierra the day after the fire. He was very grateful to still have his daughter."I can always get another truck!", he stated.

The Cherokee Springs Fire Department responded to the alarm. Reporters for the ESD Journal also spoke with the Fire Chief, Pat Murray, and the Spartanburg County Fire Marshal, Bill Hall. They were willing to discuss this with us because they feel (as we do) that not enough publicity is given to these types of fires and are often said to be rare. The fire marshall agreed with us that these refueling fires are anything but rare and need more investigating.

Photo Gallery of the Truck and the BP Station

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