HAMMOND | A flash fire at a Hammond trucking company Saturday destroyed buildings and equipment and sent black smoke billowing, darkening the skies of Hammond and East Chicago.
Two employees at Bulk Express were working with a torch shortly before 9 a.m. when a possible leak from a nearby propane tank ignited, engulfing the entire work area in flames, according to Hammond Fire Chief Jeff Smith.
Bulk Express is in an industrial area of the city, southeast of the intersection at 131st Place and Sheffield Avenue in North Hammond.
The two employees ran to safety but the fire spread quickly, destroying two buildings, a tanker truck and two truck cabs, Smith said. Two other tanker trucks and two pickup trucks were heavily damaged.
Hammond firefighters had a difficult time containing the blaze, and special equipment from the BP Whiting Refinery fire department was called in. The BP firefighters arrived with apparatus that uses foam to smother fires and were successful in containing it.
"They really helped out," Smith said. "We owe a big thanks to BP. They basically rescued us."
One Bulk Express building was left standing after the inferno and did not appear to be damaged, Smith said.
Smith said one Bulk Express employee was hurt while trying to leave the area after the fire started. That person was taken to the hospital with back pain. The injury wasn't believed to be serious, Smith said.
No other injuries were reported.
The smoke dissipated by about 10 a.m., but left a dark cloud in the area near the intersection of the Indiana Toll Road and Cline Avenue.
Bulk Express is a liquid bulk carrier, specializing in coal tar products, asphalt products and oils.