Natural gas fueling tanks explode

Natural gas fueling tanks at a Pierce Transit facility in Lakewood exploded Monday afternoon, sending a large fireball into the sky but causing no injuries.

The 5 p.m. explosion at 96th Street and South Tacoma Way demanded a second alarm fire response, prompted an evacuation and temporarily shut down streets.

“Upon arrival, firefighters saw lots of fire (and) had to get back at least 300 feet,” said West Pierce Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Hallie McCurdy.

“It was incredibly hot, and they could tell the fire was under a lot of pressure.”

Tanks used to compress natural gas to power the buses exploded inside a 15-by-25-foot metal shed and caught fire, which spread to nearby mobile storage units.

Pierce Transit spokesman Lind Simonsen said no workers or vehicles were nearby and that no one was injured.

He said the metal building where the compressors are held is some distance from the transit administration building.

While 40 firefighters from Lakewood, University Place and Central Pierce Fire & Rescue doused flames, police closed off surrounding streets, and a Puget Sound Energy supervisor turned off the gas to the facility.

Firefighters suggested that people who live within a quarter-mile radius evacuate, but it’s unclear how many left. It took roughly an hour for firefighters to control the blaze.

An exact cause of the fire had not been determined Monday.

Simonsen said the transit agency has contingency plans for fueling buses and maintenance folks are hard at work.

He suggested that bus riders check the Pierce Transit website this morning for any service disruptions.