A fuel pump fire at Bend Municipal Airport appears to have started after the wing of a small plane struck something that caused a spark, igniting the fumes. That fire led to temporary evacuations.
The fire was reported about 1:40 p.m. at the airport located along Powell Butte Highway on the east end of the city.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office said an 81-year-old pilot and his 79-year-old passenger, both from California, had just finished fueling their 1978 Cessna 340 A, a dual-propeller aircraft. Bend Fire and Rescue said the tip of the wing clipped the metal awing the covers the fuel pumps. The wing immediately ignited and the burning fuel from the aircraft spread to the pumps.
“With the protected design of these tanks and fueling station, the tanks were equipped with over pressure relief valves on top and shut off valves in the system,” Bend Fire and Rescue said in a statement. “The vents allowed the vapors from the fuel inside to escape and not allow it to build up pressure inside. This pressure would’ve led to the tanks exploding. The shut off valves kept the remaining fuel inside tanks and not spilling out.”
Bend Fire said two above ground tanks supply the fuel pumps. One had 6,000 gallons of aviation fuel in it, the other 3,000 of jet fuel.
About 180 gallons of fuel was in the aircraft and was still leaking after the fire, according to Bend Fire. Maintenance crews from Leading Edge Aviation worked to secure that leak. All water run off was contained on site and did not appear to pose any further threat.
No injuries were reported.
The $300,000 aircraft is a complete loss. Bend Fire says the fuel tanks and pump station are valued at $500,000. The loss on the pump system is estimated at $250,000.
Area residents were warned about possible caustic fumes and the fuel that was burning at a high rate. Evacuation notices were sent out, but lifted a few minutes later as the fire was brought under control. Powell Butte Highway as well as other arterial roads were closed to traffic for a short time.
Normal airport operations have resumed.