A major fire broke out at Cornelius’s Thunderbolt Racing Fuel at around 1:30 today, spreading quickly to an ethanol fuel facility in the same building complex and sparking minor explosions a mere 3 miles away from campus. The smoke from the ethanol fire rising from Thunderbolt Racing Fuel on N 4th Avenue rose within view of Pacific residents shortly after. The blaze caused the Cornelius Fire Department to evacuate residents of the area as well as patrons in the Cornelius Walmart, which was next door to the fire.
According to Matt Johnston, a spokesman for the Cornelius Fire Department, all structures within half of a mile of the fire were promptly evacuated and a perimeter was set far away from the ethanol facility.
“We had heavy amounts of fire and black smoke coming from the area where [Thunderbolt Racing Fuel] store and make all of this ethanol fuel,” Johnston said. “We were initially going to attack the flames, but then we just deemed that it was too dangerous. There were some major explosions happening and there were some concerns that bigger explosions could throw debris at firefighters… You can’t spray water on an ethanol fire because it will make it worse.”
Johnston said that firefighters then withdrew from the area and began evacuations of nearby homes and businesses (including Walmart), eventually forming a perimeter around the scene with a half-a-mile radius. Meanwhile, the fire spread to other buildings near Summit Foods and Thunderbolt Racing Fuel. At this time, most of the ethanol fire has “burnt itself out” according to Johnston and no injuries have been reported.
Tualatin Fire and Rescue, the Washington County Sheriff Department, as well as the Cornelius Fire and Police Departments all responded to the blaze, blocking most of N Adair Street and N 4th Avenue south of W Baseline St.
“We’re trying to open the highway back up by 7 o’clock,” said Johnston, “as well as let people back home by 7.” — Isabelle Williams
Photo: Smoke from the scene seen on North Adair in Cornelius (Isabelle Williams)