Although officials were still investigating the incident, Cayman Islands petroleum inspectors confirmed that the site of a massive fire in Savannah Meadows last week was “not on the radar” of local fuel and gas regulators before Wednesday.
The blaze, which broke out around 4 p.m. Wednesday in an undeveloped area of a residential neighborhood on Raven Road, north of Shamrock Road, could be seen for miles as black smoke billowed into the air.
Firefighters spent several hours shuttling water back and forth between a nearby hydrant and the fire scene to ensure flames did not erupt anew.
Chief Petroleum Inspector Duke Munroe credited the quick response from the Cayman Islands Fire Service for “averting major damages with no injuries reported.”
So far, Mr. Munroe said, it appears two containers on the property, one storing mainly used oil and the other with tools and written manuals, were destroyed in the fire.
“Some welding was taking place in the vicinity of the containers and sparks from the welding got into the container with books, which ignited,” he said. “The heat then ignited/exploded a propane cylinder in the vicinity and apparently there was a chain reaction which caused a fire also in the other container.”
Fire crews said it appeared a 20-pound propane tank in the area between the two storage containers exploded.
Mr. Munroe said the petroleum inspectorate still did not have a full grasp of the “context” in which the incident occurred, including the nature of the storage at the site.
“We can only say at this time that any such storage should have had the ‘blessings’ of our department [referring to the Cayman Islands Petroleum Inspectorate],” he said.
According to Cayman’s Dangerous Substances (Handling and Storage) Law, any site that permanently stores 250 gallons or more of “dangerous substances” (including used oil) should be inspected and permitted by the petroleum inspectorate.
“This site was not on our radar for such activities,” Mr. Munroe said.
If the site was being operated as an “incidental” (non-permanent) storage area, it is not an activity that the petroleum inspectorate would regulate, Mr. Munroe said. “But we do not endorse such activity,” he added.
If it were a temporary storage site, the inspectorate would still wish to ensure minimum safeguards or even discourage the activity altogether based on environmental health or safety reasons, he said.
Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer Randy Rankin said the fire service is still looking into the incident.