Witness Describes Watching Nearly Catastrophic Fuel Truck Fire on Wednesday

DES MOINES, Iowa -- It was a normal Wednesday for Joe Belew, an employee at Des Moines Steel Company, until he saw something out of the ordinary happen next door at Keck Energy.

“I was in the beam yard there and the next thing I know all I heard was a ‘woove’ sound and next thing I know I see a big whole ball of flame and one of the guys was running away kind of looked like he had smoke or something in his eyes and I noticed his pant leg was on fire and he just dropped and started rolling,” Belew said

Belew ran into the office, called 911 and then he and other employees walked down the road to be safe.

“We went up the street just in case something bigger happened or something happened like that and then a bunch of firetrucks and the cops showed up and all that,” Belew said.

Brian O’Keefe, PIO for Des Moines Fire Department, said they arrived as quickly as they could.

“They were blocks away and reported heavy smoke once they got on scene there were flames and the truck fully involved,” O’Keefe said.

Employees of a business across the street said they were evacuated and moved down the road while crews tried to get the fuel tanker fire under control.

“At one point because of the heat and size of the flames and the amount of other tanks in the area, they were going to hit the horns and call a retreat and back out and reassess, but they got a second line in there from the opposite side and were able to extinguish it,” O’Keefe said.

Belew said he’s worked at Des Moines Steel Company for three years and wasn't really concerned about the fuel tanks, but it was always in the back of his mind.

“I think if the fire department if they had shown up a little bit later than what they did probably would have been a little bit bigger than what it was,” Belew said.

O’Keefe said fire crews were able to contain the fuel to the property.

“All that fuel and oil in that immediate area were contained within the property, so that keeps this incident to within the confines of the property. Which is significant otherwise we'd be chasing fuel down towards the river,” O’Keefe said.

One person was taken to the hospital, their conditions are unknown at this time.