ALLEGANY — Small explosions erupted on West State Street Friday morning when a driver unwittingly pulled a gasoline nozzle loose from a Kwik Fill station pump, according to officials from the Allegany Fire Department.
Gordon Scott, media officer for the Allegany Fire Department, said at about 10:30 a.m., a male driver who was washing his windows forgot the gasoline nozzle was in his car and drove away without removing it. As the hose was ripped from the pump, gasoline poured onto the station pavement and ignited.
The gas station building, located at 3108 W. State St., was undamaged. Only the pump where the mishap occurred was destroyed.
Scott declined to reveal the identity of the suspected driver as the incident is still under investigation.
No one was reported injured, although Scott confirmed the female attendant on duty was shaken up and transported to Olean General Hospital for precautionary measures.
A representative with United Refining Co. in Warren, Pa., parent company of Kwik Fill, said the corporation expects to provide information on the incident, as well as a date on when the station will reopen, in the near future.
Scott said after the gas ignited, the safety shower system activated. He added when firefighters arrived on scene, there were two “small explosions.” Firefighters sprayed water and foam to knock down the blaze quickly, Scott said, adding that use of the foam neutralized gasoline fumes.
“In the 35 years I’ve been in the fire department, I’ve never seen a fire like this,” Scott said.
Eyewitnesses to the event included Tammy Morris, master barber and owner of Noggins Barber Shop, 3121 W. State St., located across the road from Kwik Fill.
Morris shared the account in her empty shop, as West State Street between Gargoyle Road and the access road to the Walmart plaza at the east end, were shut off to traffic shortly after the incident until approximately 1:30 p.m. Officials said the blocked roadway was necessary until they could determine the amount of gasoline leaked and clean up required at the scene.
Morris said she was in her shop when she heard a “bang like somebody ran into something” coming from the direction of the gas station.
“Then I heard squealing of tires from the person pulling away,” she continued. “When I looked out, I saw flames” from the gas pump. She then saw the fire retardant from the awning shower down on the flames.
“I think the highest the flames got was maybe halfway up to the awning,” she added.
Shortly afterward, Morris and a co-worker saw the gas station attendant run out with a fire extinguisher and spray the pump.
“As she was trying to put (the flames) out, it went ‘poof,’” she said in describing the small explosion. “There were like three explosions” throughout the incident.
She said the woman appeared to be alright, but was taken away from the scene by ambulance a short time later.
Mike Barnard, an employee at Casey, Halwig & Hartle Funeral Home, located next door to Kwik Fill at 3128 W. State St., said he became aware of the fire when Allegany Fire Department personnel arrived on the scene.
Barnard was relieved the gas didn’t spread and create a worse situation.
“The Allegany Fire Department did a good job of getting it under control and put out,” he said.
Responding volunteer fire units included Allegany, Westons Mills, Knapp Creek and Town of Olean. Limestone Volunteer Fire Department provided traffic control support.
Later in the day, Scott said the fire department turned the incident over to the Kwik Fill emergency response team as well as the area’s hazmat response service, Incident Response & Mitigation Services.