MIAMI (CBS4) – A number of travelers have found themselves stuck at Miami International Airport after an overnight fire in the fuel farm forced several airlines to cancel flights on Thursday.
The fire broke out around 11 p.m. Wednesday in one of the tanks in the fuel storage area located east of the runways. The fuel farm has six fuel tanks, each holding up to a million gallons of fuel.
“It was a potentially disastrous fire,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokesman Captain Eric Baum.
“Firefighters were working with hundreds of thousands of gallons (of fuel) on all sides of them and trying to get foam on there to prevent the flames from coming up. In addition, we were putting water on these other static tanks to prevent those from boiling over,” said Baum.
More than 100 Miami-Dade firefighters battled the blaze and were able to keep the fire contained to the one tank. They brought the fire under control around 1 a.m. and extinguished it 20 minutes later.
“This was a very significant fire and we were able to prevent that fire from spreading out of the immediate area of the tank farm. That’s why the airport was designed that way, to keep that isolated, away from passengers,” said Baum.
Only one flight was delayed for about 45 minutes because of the fire, which happened at a time when there are few flights, airport spokesman Greg Chin said.
A preliminary investigation into the cause has found that a malfunction near one of the fuel pipelines most likely sparked the fire. Because the pumps that provide fuel to the airport are shutdown during the investigation, airport officials have gone to a back up plan to get fuel to the jets.
“Our only capability right now is to truck the fuel to the airport. Therefore it’s going to have an impact on the on-time performance of the outgoing aircraft,” said airport director Jose Abreu.
Hector Pompo said he was scheduled to leave Thursday morning on a business trip, now he’s not going anywhere until at least tomorrow.
“The flight was late, we boarded the plane, they told us to wait for half an hour on the plane. Then they told us we were one of the flights that got canceled, there goes the trip to Las Vegas,” said Pompo.
American Airlines, the largest carrier at MIA, canceled 22 outgoing flights and 14 inbound flights because of the fuel situation. A number of airlines in addition to American also announced cancellations and delays.
A family who had arrived at MIA from Brazil found out their connecting flight had been canceled.
“I think it’s terrible because we’ve been flying for ten hours to get here to get our plane to Providenciales,” said Rita.
Travelers with flights out are being urged to contact their airlines to confirm that flights are on time; fueling capacity is expected to be at 40 percent for early flights.
Drivers heading to the airport should to take either State Road 836 or State Road 112.