***Update, 6:30 a.m. Monday***
Firefighters extinguished the fire at Jackson Point fuel terminal, and shortly after 2:45 a.m., neighboring residents were advised they could return to their homes.
Chief Fire Officer David Hails said, “We should all be proud of the response from our firefighters and other first responders today. They did a great job and all worked together under challenging circumstances. I am also pleased to report there were no injuries. This was a potentially dangerous fire involving a large quantity of fuel, and our first responders did what needed to be done to keep the public safe.”
Hazard Management posted on its Facebook page:
“Fire Officers have extinguished the fire at the Sol Fuel distribution centre on South Church Street. Shortly after 2.45 am, the “All Clear” was issued and residents were advised that they can safely return to their homes. The officers fought the fire for over 8 hours in hot and humid conditions wearing heavy fire retardant suits.
“A unified command post was established at Sunset House, and included HMCI staff, Fire Officers, EMS, Police, Sol, and the Chief Petroleum Inspector which together coordinated the response. Chief Fire Officer Hails had this to say about the response effort: “We should all be proud of the response from our firefighters and other first responders today. They did a great job and all worked together under challenging circumstances. I am also pleased to report there were no injuries. This was a potentially dangerous fire involving a large quantity of fuel, and our first responders did what needed to be done to keep the public safe.”
“Fire officers will remain on the scene throughout the night as a precautionary watch.”
Fire out at Sol Fuel Tank – “All Clear” Evacuation lifted. pic.twitter.com/EKJb9VKvje
— Hazard Management CI (@CINEOC) July 24, 2017
***Update, 11:50 p.m.***
Speaking from an emergency command center set up at Sunset House, Fire Chief David Hails told the Cayman Compass that the Fire Services Department is using thermal imaging cameras to determine if the temperature inside the tank where the fire erupted is cooling down.
Mr. Hails said Fire Services were alerted to smoke emitting from one of the Sol tank about 4.45 p.m.
“On arrival, we could see that there seemed to be a fire inside one of the fuel tanks. It wasn’t a large fire, not a whole tank on fire,” he said. “The fire was situated at a lip near the top of the tank, at one of the ridges that are in place to strengthen the tank. It appeared fuel had ignited inside that lip.
“One of the problems with that is because of the location of the fire, it is very difficult to access and deal with it.”
He said firefighters were using cooling jets of water and foam at the outside of the tank to reduce the likelihood of the fire spreading to the whole tank. “We looked at how much fuel was inside and what firefighting tactics we could use,” he said.
According to emergency personnel at the scene, the fuel tank is about one-third full, containing approximately 15,000 barrels of diesel. (That’s approximately 525,000 imperial gallons.)
Speaking shortly before 11 p.m., Fire Chief Hails said that it was difficult to say when local residents who had been evacuated from their homes in the area could return.
Police have set up a 1,000 feet evacuation area from the site at Jackson Point.
“We are very mindful of the fact that we need to get people back to their homes as quickly as possible, but obviously safety is paramount,” Mr. Hails said. “We can’t give a definitive time line as to when it will be safe to re-enter the area.
“We have to ensure the fire is completely out,” he added.
Police, Fire Services and Sol said they did not know at this point what had caused the fire, but that an investigation would be carried out as soon as possible.
Guests at Sunset House were evacuated on Sunday evening by buses to other hotels in the area, according to Marcelino Pereira, a security officer at the hotel.
No one has been injured in the incident, police said.
Stephen Duval, manager of the Cayman Islands Emergency Medical Services said two people within the evacuation zone had been transported to the Cayman Islands Hospital because they were housebound and unable to evacuate the area by themselves.
Alan Neesome, general manager of Sol Petroleum, said the tank where the fire was situated was less than one-third full, with about 30 feet of fuel inside.
Mr. Neesome said work had been going on at the terminal at the time the fire erupted, but he said he did not want to speculate on what had started the fire.
He said workers were first alerted to the problem when they spotted “some discoloration in the paint on the tank.” He said there were safety procedures in place when carrying out work on tanks, adding, “We don’t know what caused the fire, but we will be making a thorough investigation.”
Also on hand at the control center in Sunset House late Sunday was Simon Boxall from Hazard Management Cayman Islands, which became involved once it became apparent that an evacuation was under way.
He said Hazard Management was working with the Health Services Authority to help individuals who were bed-bound and to determine if shelters would be needed to accommodate people. He said his team were issuing regular updates on the situation via Facebook and Twitter.
According to a statement from Hazard Management: “The fire in the wholesale fuel tank at Jackson Point is ongoing and the area has still not been declared safe by the Cayman Islands Fire Service.
“The exclusion area remains in place and the Red Cross Shelter on Huldah Avenue is open and ready to receive residents who have been asked to evacuate and need a place to stay. There are extra police patrols in the exclusion zone.
“When the scene have been declared safe by the Fire Service, residents will be allowed back home.
Residents seeking additional information on the fire or evacuation are asked to contact 949-9008.”
Fire fighters still fighting a fire inside one of the tanks @ Sol. Trying to keep tank cool to prevent a rupture. Approx 15 K barrels fuel. pic.twitter.com/m7X3Cd2Frl
— Hazard Management CI (@CINEOC) July 24, 2017
***Update, 10:30 p.m.***
On the south side of the evacuation area, police have moved roadblocks as far back as Moxam Road.
***Update, 9:30 p.m.***
Police have reduced the size of the evacuation area, moving the South Church Street roadblock at Boilers Road as far back as Melmac Avenue.
The intersection of South Church and Melmac is less than half a mile from the Jackson Point terminal. The initial evacuation area was everything within a mile radius of the terminal.
***Update, 7:20 p.m.***
The fire at Jackson Point fuel terminal and evacuation of the surrounding area constitute a “major incident,” said RCIPS Superintendent Robert Graham.
He told a Compass reporter, “There was a report of flames coming from the terminal. The fire brigade are responding at the moment, looking to manage that.
“We have had to put a quick evacuation in place for around a mile’s radius. That’s taking place now.
“It is a major incident. We have a number of emergency services at the scene. The most important thing is to make sure that the public are aware and keep away from this particular area for now.”
***Update, 6:30 p.m.***
Officials have issued an evacuation notice for businesses and residences within a one-mile radius of the Jackson Point fuel terminal, as firefighters contend with a fire inside one of the tanks at the terminal.
A Cayman Islands Fire Service spokesman said 25 fire personnel were on the scene, as well as multiple Fire Service vehicles. Police have blocked off the length of South Church Street between Walkers Road and Boilers Road.
Firefighters are urging people to heed the evacuation notice and take it seriously.
The area within one mile of the fuel terminal encompasses the neighborhoods along South Church Street and Walkers Road, including Webster’s Estate and Windsor Park, as well as homes near University College of the Cayman Islands.
Police and fire officers are investigating “suspicious smoke” at the Jackson Point fuel terminal on South Church Street. They have blocked off the length of South Church Street between Walkers Road and Boilers Road.
Here is the statement from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service from 5:45 p.m. Sunday:
“Police have instigated road blocks between South Sound Road/Walkers Road and South Church Street/Boilers Road due to suspicious smoke at the oil terminal on South Church Street.
“Public are asked to take alternative routes and avoid area.”
This story will be updated as we receive more information.