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ABOUT 0915 MOUNTAIN STANDARD TIME, ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1990, A FIRE ERUPTED AT A FUEL STORAGE AND DISPENSING FACILITY ABOUT 1.8 MILES FROM THE MAIN TERMINAL OF STAPLETON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AT DENVER, COLORADO. THE FACILITY, REFERRED TO AS A FUEL FARM, WAS OWNED BY UNITED AIRLINES AND CONTINENTAL AIRLINES. UNITED AIRLINES' PORTION OF THE FUEL FARM WAS OPERATED AND MAINTAINED BY AMR COMBS. FROM THE TIME FIREFIGHTING EFFORTS WERE INITIATED IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE FIRE ERUPTED UNTIL THE FIRE WAS EXTINGUISHED, A TOTAL OF 634 FIREFIGHTERS, 47 FIRE UNITS, AND 4 CONTRACT PERSONNEL EXPENDED 56 MILLION GALLONS OF WATER AND 28,000 GALLONS OF WATER AND 28,000 GALLONS OF FOAM CONCENTRATE. THE FIRE BURNED FOR ABOUT 48 HOURS. OF THE 5,185,000 GALLONS OF FUEL STORED IN TANKS AT THE FARM BEFORE THE FIRE, ABOUT 3 MILLION GALLONS WERE EITHER CONSUMED BY THE FIRE OR LOST AS A RESULT OF LEAKAGE FROM THE TANKS. TOTAL DAMAGE WAS ESTIMATED BY UNITED AIRLINES TO HAVE BEEN BETWEEN $15 AND $20 MILLION. NO INJURIES OR FATALITIES OCCURRED AS A RESULT OF THE FIRE.
THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: REQUIRE AIRPORT CERTIFICATE HOLDERS TO ENSURE THAT FUEL OPERATORS LOCATE THE FUEL FARM CONTROL SYSTEMS, ONE OR MORE EMERGENCY SHUTOFF SWITCHES, AND THE RECORDING EQUIPMENT IN AN AREA REMOTE FROM THE PUMPING EQUIPMENT AND OUTSIDE A SPILL CONTAINMENT AREA.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Acceptable Action
Denver, CO, United States
Fuel Farm at Stapleton International Airport
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FAA (Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action)
Safety Recommendation History
BECAUSE THE FAA HAS CONTACTED ALL PART 139 CERTIFICATE HOLDERS REGARDING THE SUBJECT OF THESE RECOMMENDATIONS, THE BOARD IS PLACING RECOMMENDATIONS A-91-97 THROUGH -99 IN A "CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATE ACTION" STATUS. ALTHOUGH WE HAVE CLOSED THESE RECOMMENDATIONS, WE WOULD APPRECIATE BEING INFORMED OF ANY RESPONSE YOU RECEIVE FROM YOUR MAY 6, 1992, LETTER TO ALL PART 139 CERTIFICATE HOLDERS.
As previously stated, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not agree with these safety recommendations. Fuel farm facilities built on airports are constructed in accordance with the applicable state and local codes. These codes are usually based upon or incorporate by reference the design standards developed by the American Petroleum Institute and the fire safety standards promulgated by the National Fire Protection Association in addition to any other requirements that the governing jurisdiction may impose. The FAA believes that the public is best served by allowing the design of fuel storage facilities to be governed by state and local codes which reflect industry standards. On May 6, 1992, the FAA sent a letter to all 14 CFR Part 139 certificate holders encouraging them to inspect on-airport fuel facilities with appropriate engineer and fire inspection staffs to determine what additional fuel storage and dispensing safety devices should be installed and to make necessary procedural changes. However, the FAA does not plan to track the changes made by the individual airports as requested by the Safety Board. I have enclosed a copy of the FAA's letter to the certificate holders for the Board's information. I consider the FAA's action to be completed on these safety recommendations, and I plan no further action.
Safety Recommendation A-91-97 urged the FAA to require the installation of fail-safe valves and fire valves on above-ground storage tanks. Safety Recommendation A-91-98 asked the FAA to require placing an emergency shutoff switch and recording equipment outside of fuel spill containment areas. In Safety Recommendation A-91-99, the Board urged the FAA to examine the feasibility of mandating the use of temperature and vibration monitoring and shutdown equipment on all fuel pumping systems on property of certificated airports. In response to these three recommendations, the FAA stated that fuel storage facility design and safety issues are best left up to the experts that design fuel storage facilities and to the State and local codes that reflect industry standards. Further, the FAA stated that this "historical policy" has resulted in the safe and efficient design and operation of fuel farm facilities. The Safety Board concluded from its investigation that if these safety features had been in place at the time of the equipment failure, this major fire and loss of fuel and equipment would have been very minor. Further, the design experts to whom you have referred have totally redesigned the new fuel farm at Denver's new airport subsequent to the fire because they did not foresee the consequences of this type of equipment failure. The safety devices suggested in these recommendations are state-of-the-art and their incorporation in all above ground fuel storage facilities on certificated airport property would enhance the safety of these facilities. However, the Safety Board agrees that decisions to incorporate such devices may be made more appropriately by qualified personnel after an analysis of each facility. Therefore, your response that the safety devices identified in the recommendations should be brought to the attention of the airport operators, and that each operator should be required to inspect on-airport fuel facilities with the appropriate engineer and fire inspector to determine what additional safety devices need to be installed, is an acceptable alternative to our requested action. Based on this action, Safety Recommendations A-91-97, -98, and - 99 are being held in an "Open--Acceptable Alternate Response" status. The Board requests that you keep us informed of the progress on this alternate action and that the response of the certificate holder to the required safety review be transmitted to the Safety Board.
IN SUMMARY, FAA TOOK THE POSITION THAT FUEL STORAGE FACILITIES ARE DESIGNED BY SKILLED EXPERTS ACCORDING TO APPLICABLE STATE AND LOCAL CODES THAT INCORPORATE DESIGN STANDARDS FROM THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE (API) AND THE NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION (NFPA), THAT THE EXISTING PROCESS HAS RESULTED IN A SAFE AND EFFICIENT OPERATION AND SERVED THE PUBLIC EFFECTIVELY IN THE PAST, FAA DOES NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT EXPERTISE IN THIS DISCIPLINE TO PROVIDE EFFECTIVE OVERSIGHT, AND THAT THE EXPERTS MUST BE GIVEN LATITUDE TO CHANGE SAFETY DEVICES BASED UPON THE MOST CURRENT PRACTICES. THE FAA DOES PLAN TO DISTRIBUTE THIS RECOMMENDATION TO THE CERTIFICATE HOLDERS AND REQUIRE THE HOLDER TO INSPECT THE ON-AIRPORT FUEL FACILITY WITH APPROPRIATE EXPERTS TO DETERMINE WHAT ADDITIONAL SAFETY DEVICES SHOULD BE INSTALLED. BEYOND THIS, THE FAA PLANS NO FURTHER ACTION ON THIS RECOMMENDATION.
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