|Gas tank triggers
truck fire in hotel parking lot
An explosion Sunday night in the parking lot of the
Days Inn forced an evacuation of guests and threatened
the two-story structure.
According to Atmore Fire & Rescue Department
chief Gerry McGhee, a 75-gallon gas tank in the bed
of Valley Grand resident Randy Hinton's 1995 Dodge
Dakota pickup truck caught fire in the parking lot
of the hotel located at 1610 South Main Street. The
gas tank exploded upon fire personnel's arrival.
"We don't know how the fire started," McGhee
said. "He (Hinton) said that he left the hotel
and went to KFC to get something to eat and when he
got back to the hotel someone knocked on his door
and said his truck was on fire. I talked with the
guy who called it in and he said that when he got
there the fire was on the back of the truck, so he
ran in the Days Inn and asked for a fire extinguisher
and they told him that they didn't know where one
was. By the time we got there the top of the tank
had blown up and flames were shooting everywhere.
The truck was totally engulfed."
Atmore resident Ben Lindsey, who is co-owner of Old
South Automotive in Atmore, called the fire in after
discovering it in its early stages.
"I was down at our shop and walked out the door
and saw some smoke, so I went over there and checked
it out," the 21-year-old said. "It had just
started when I got there. That's when I went inside
and asked for a fire extinguisher and the girl told
me she didn't know where it was. When I got back out
there the fire was going pretty good. It had already
spread to the gas tank and started burning the fuel."
Atmore Fire & Rescue personnel responded to the
fire at 9:06 p.m. and quickly began dousing the fire
with water to prevent the truck from exploding and
to protect the Days Inn building.
"Days Inn didn't have much damage," McGhee
said. "It was mostly contained to the truck.
We did evacuate the south side of the hotel and kept
water on it until we could get foam hooked up so we
could put out the fire. We had to use 30 gallons of
foam to put out the fire."
A total of 11 Atmore firefighters responded to the
blaze, along with eight from Walnut Hill, Fla. Volunteer
Fire Department. McGhee said even though the fire
didn't spread to the Days Inn, he wanted to be sure
enough personnel was on hand to contain it quickly
if it did.
"I'd rather be on the safe side because you
never know with a situation like that what you're
going to run into," he said. "A lot of people
get excited when they call in fires, so you don't
always get all the information you need, so we like
to send more engines and personnel just in case. You
can always send a truck back, so that's the reason
why I like to have enough help because you never know
what kind of situations you're going to run in to.
It could have been a big threat to the Days Inn."
McGhee said even though the fire took more than 20
minutes to contain, once the department's foam system
was hooked up it didn't take long to "snuff out
It is unknown what caused the fire, but McGhee said
he doesn't suspect arson.
"Something like that, with so much fire, it's
difficult to determine how it started," he said.
"The owner of the vehicle also had a barbecue
grill on the back of it."
Three fire trucks and a rescue van from the Atmore
Fire & Rescue Department responded to assist in
control the fire. Atmore Police Department officers
were also on hand for crowd control and to redirect
traffic off Main Street. Kelley's Ambulance also had
two units at the scene.
Since several gallons of gasoline were washed into
the parking lot of Days Inn, McGhee contacted outgoing
EMA director David Jennings to inform him of the incident.
"The run off from the gas went into a holding
pond that Days Inn uses, so it didn't contaminate
any of the water systems here in town," McGhee
said. "We notified the EMA director and he said
that he would notify the proper authorities to come
out and look at holding pond to determine if it needed
to be dug out or not."
McGhee said he is unaware if the holding pond has