FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The propane tank behind McDonalds on Geist Rd. has been burning for over 20 hours as the University Fire Department firefighters watch it closely. Fire Chief Douglas Schrage says they were called about the fire at 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon. "When we arrived we found about 10-12 foot flames coming out of the ground [which] was impinging on the fences and the trees right nearby," said Schrage.
Cathleen Doyle lives right next door to this McDonalds, and said it was scary when she saw the large flames. "Just the smell of propane, and the concern of an explosion... you can still smell propane in the yard here now," said Doyle.
Schrage says when there is a propane or gaseous fire, they don’t try to put it out "because we want the flames to be consuming the gas as it comes out of the vessel. If we put it out, then the gas could migrate into a building or some other place, find an ignition source and explode. So that's why in a situation like this, we want to keep the flames burning."
The one-thousand gallon tank was filled just an hour before the fire started so the firefighters predicted it would take 29-33 hours to burn out. It has now been over 20 hours and they are expecting the propane tank to run out of fuel later Tuesday evening.
Schrage said “We're using a lot of water to prevent the fire from burning the fence and the trees and as a consequence that water is accumulating in the street and in the yard nearby, we're trying to use the least amount of water that we can, and still keep the fire from burning everything up around there."
Doyle noticed Monday night that her yard started flooding from the water used for fire suppression. "My entire yard has been flooded with the water rising up... close to 20 inches from the foundation of my building... and we're talking, like 5 inches [of] water," said Doyle.
Doyle says the University Fire Department has been working really hard to pump the water out of her yard, and that she talked to McDonalds management but is waiting to hear back.
We do not have information on what started the fire. Schrage says there is currently no danger of the tank exploding as long as they keep the flame going.
We reached out to management at McDonalds on Geist Rd, but they were unavailable at that time.