Land use, safety considered for preventing future tanker fires

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Both safety of the propane storage yard where last summer?s propane tank car fire occurred and where future facilities like it are placed in Lincoln are being considered to prevent similar incidents. That?s according to Mayor Spencer Short. The city has ?had a number of talks with the company and representatives,? Short said, to ?make sure that something like this does not happen again.? The tanker fire caused the evacuation of 10,000 residents and business employees last Aug. 23 and 24 until the 29,000 gallons of propane burned out, according to previous News Messenger reports. The fire was at Northern Propane Energy, near the corner of Nicolaus Road and J Street, which is across the street from Phoenix High School and several residences. ?If we were going to approve anything today, it would not be in that location,? Short said of the propane storage yard. ?Our goal is to minimize any future land use conflicts and talk to the company about improving their safety program.? Short said that part of the zoning goal ?is to make sure you don?t have incompatible uses near each other.? ?Once the use goes in, it?s much harder to change the residential or industrial component,? Short said. Finding a new location for the propane storage yard is not currently an option, according to Short. ?We?ve addressed possible solutions, recognizing that if the city were going to take action to do something like condemn the facility there, it would likely be an excessive cost we can?t afford,? Short said. That?s because the city would ?have to pay the value of whatever it?s (facility) is worth and potentially help them relocate,? Short said, adding that ?clearly we do not have the funds available.? ?I?d have a hard time suggesting a condemnation under most circumstances,? Short said. ?They?ve been a good employer for a number of years. It was a serious mishap but how do we avoid that? Because any business can have a serious mishap.? Short said it was the ?only mishap in the 30 plus years they?ve been there.? Lincoln?s police and fire departments have adjusted their plans in case a similar incident happens. ?From a fire standpoint, we?ve gone in and re-looked at our response plans,? Interim Fire Chief Mike Davis said. ?We know that we have the right contact numbers for them (Northern Energy) and we know the available water supplies and resources we?ll need in another event.? Davis noted that ?we had all of those things at the time of the event but now it?s just updated.? ?The first crews that arrived took action and what they did went a long way in getting us to the successful outcome we had,? Davis said. Interim Police Chief Paul Shelgren said the police department is ?prepared for when the next emergency occurs.? They have ?protocols in place? for items like where the operation and command center would be. ?The biggest thing in a situation like that is cooperation,? Shelgren said. ?It was a total 100 percent joint effort.?