An inferno feeding off 1.6 million gallons of jet fuel roared unchecked at Stapleton International Airport Monday, and firefighters said another tank was on the verge of rupturing.
But officials said that the flight delays that wrenched thousands of travelers as the busy Thanksgiving weekend came to a close should ease because replacement fuel was being trucked in.The blaze erupted Sunday morning and engulfed two tanks containing 400,000 gallons of fuel each. It exploded from huge to gigantic later that night when an 800,000-gallon tank became overheated, ruptured and ignited.
Firefighters initially said another 800,000-gallon tank also had ignited, but it turned out that that fire was at a holding pond where fuel had gathered behind the burning 400,000-gallon tanks.
A new headache developed today involving yet another tank. Fire Department spokesman Nick Nuanes said a tank holding 350,000 gallons of fuel was buckling and leaking some jet fuel and was on the brink of rupture. Firefighters doused the tank with foam and water.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving traditionally is Stapleton's busiest day of the year. The tanks had been filled Saturday night in anticipation of heavy holiday air traffic, officials said.
The fire caused flight delays, because of refueling difficulties, and traffic jams. Stapleton is the nation's fourth-busiest airport in terms of passenger volume.
"You know, I'm really hassled," said actress Goldie Hawn, whose Sunday afternoon flight to Los Angeles was canceled. She and actor Kurt Russell had been skiing in Aspen.
The fire continued to burn fiercely and unchecked this morning. Firefighters monitored the blaze's progress and kept fire hoses trained on the second 800,000-gallon tank, but did not plan an offensive to extinguish the fire.
The blaze, which cast a haze over Denver Monday morning and occasionally caused visibility problems on nearby Interstate 70, could burn for days.
"This was bad and it's gotten worse, and we just have to stay with it until it does what it's going to do," Denver Aviation Director George Doughty said.