Picking up the piecesAfter a Jan. 15 explosion in Dickinson’s West Industrial Park jolted residents awake and left a trail of destruction, the removal of evidence and personal property began Friday, though the full cause of the blast remains unknown.
After a Jan. 15 explosion in Dickinson’s West Industrial Park jolted residents awake and left a trail of destruction, the removal of evidence and personal property began Friday, though the full cause of the blast remains unknown.
“As far as I’m concerned, my report’s finished and I came up with my determination and my cause,” said Deputy State Fire Marshal Donald Temple. “I’ve got a pretty good idea but I can’t prove it. I have no scientific reasoning why it did what it did.”
Blane Fugere of Dickinson, owner of B & B Hot Oil Services Inc, had been renting a 50-foot by 60-foot space where two hot oil trucks, each carrying two 200-gallon propane tanks, were parked.
Temple said a driver of one of the trucks filled its propane tanks before parking the vehicle. The driver of the second truck did not fill his truck’s tanks, leaving one empty and one partially filled before parking it for the evening, Temple said in January.
On the day of the blast, propane had been leaking from the trucks and after a mysterious fire ignited in the building, the combination created the thundering blast which sent debris and damaged homes as far as a mile away.
No natural gas or electricity was flowing through the building at the time of the blast, Dickinson Rural Fire Department Chief Curt Lefor said in January.
Temple said all of Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. valves were shut off at the meter.
Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said the building is owned by Dickinson residents Dan Krebs and Steve Forester.
On Friday afternoon, several individuals, who declined identification, were extracting possessions from the rubble, including a Corvette, snowmobiles and a black Pontiac vehicle.
Hired by three insurance companies involved with the incident, Alpha 6, Inc., a security provider, had been on site since a few days after the blast, providing 24-hour security.
Mike Hutchison of Alpha 6 began monitoring the site about two weeks after the blast and said there have been little to no problems with trespassing and looting of the site.
One of B & B’s insurance companies retained Dickinson Attorney Randall Sickler to represent B & B.
On site Friday afternoon, Sickler said the plan was to remove all evidence and personal property on Friday and in about 30 days, the remainder of the site will be cleaned up.
Several insurance companies are involved with the claims process and experts investigating the blast did not want the trucks moved so the site could continue to be investigated.
“It’s a process that’s probably going to take a while yet,” Sickler said.
About 12 to 15 cause-and-origin experts have been investigating the incident, Sickler said.
“The first group came and looked at the truck and then it was determined that there were more potential component manufacturers ... the pumps or the hose, and so they wanted to give notice to those newly discovered people or companies so they could come in,” Sickler said, adding anything that was thought to have been a possible cause was looked into.
“I think everything’s on the table,” Sickler said. “As far as I’ve heard, there hasn’t been any conclusive ... there’s a lot of theories I think out there but nothing conclusive that I’m aware of.”
Total damage estimates and the possibility of pending lawsuits are unclear.