Beer man delivers in time of need, puts out dangerous fire
The quick actions of a local beer deliveryman averted disaster Tuesday at a Glenwood Springs gas station.
Around 4 p.m., an explosion and subsequent fire were sparked at a gas pump, quickly engulfing the area around gasoline pump No. 3 of Central Station Texaco and torching the driver’s side of a minivan.
The flare-up occurred as George Madsen of Aspen was trying to pump gas into his conversion camper minivan. He and his wife, Connie, were on their way out of town for a week-long vacation when they decided to fill up at the station, at the corner of 23rd Street and Grand Avenue.
Madsen is a former editor of the Aspen Times and former Pitkin County commissioner.
Witnesses said Madsen was having problems getting the pump to work, so he went inside the station to get some help from the attendant.
Connie said the problem continued, and after her husband went into the station for the second time, station attendant Christine Bostic came out to help him.
“It was dripping, gas was coming out of the nozzle,” Bostic said.
Connie described what she next saw from inside the van.
“Finally she jiggled something and the gas started going,” she said.
That was when the gas vapors somehow caught fire.
“It was enveloped with flames 15 feet high,” she said. “We were running for our lives, we thought the whole thing was going to blow and we had propane in the van.”
Bostic said she wasn’t sure what caused the fire, but she and another employee speculated that it could have been a spark caused by static electricity.
“I jumped back because I was out near it when it happened,” she said.
The fire didn’t last for long, thanks to Brian Klein, a beer delivery truck driver who works for Orrison Distributing. He and another Orrison employee were delivering beer to Big Sid’s Bottles, located next to the gas station, when the flare-up occurred.
“There were flames everywhere,” Klein said “I was on the other side of the trailer and I saw flames, so I grabbed a fire extinguisher.”
He ran over to what witnesses describes as a 10- to 15-foot wall of flames and sprayed the extinguisher’s contents onto the fire, dousing the blaze.
Klein said all truck drivers are required by law to carry a fire extinguisher.
George Madsen said he was impressed with Klein’s quick actions.
“Wow, he was on it fast,” he said.
Bill Harding, who acted as the incident commander at the scene for the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, said the cause of the blowup was still being determined. Klein had already snuffed the flames by the time fire crews arrived.
Shortly after the fire, a gasoline pump technician was looking over the pump, but the gas station was allowed to remain open.
The nozzle was partly melted and the station bore some black marks from the fire, but at first glance the damage didn’t appear to be substantial.
The burned van was pulled onto a flatbed tow truck and taken away.
George Madsen suffered some minor burns on his hand and forearm, but he said he didn’t plan to seek medical attention.
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