Reporting Maria Medina
LINCOLN (CBS13) — A propane company that owned the rail car that caught fire in Lincoln in 2011 is shutting down.
Northern Energy Propane is no longer in business after City Council members declared it a public nuisance.
It was a day Phyllis Kalbach says she’ll never forget.
“Instantly, I was never more scared in my entire life,” she said. “If that thing blows, we’re dead. We have to leave now.”
Two years ago, she rushed to leave the school she works at, across the street from Northern Energy Propane. After she saw huge flames coming from one of its rail cars.
She was the one who told a daycare teacher to evacuate her class.
“The children were lined up, and they’re watching the fire. and I’m screaming, ‘No, get away from the fire.’”
Nearly 5,000 people would be evacuated that day, including customers at Dennis Strong’s restaurant.
“It was lunchtime, the restaurant was full of people.
Firefighters old the town of Lincoln that if the rail car exploded, it could level a portion of Lincoln.
“It’s a big liability, and it’s a big scare,” said Strong.
And Lincoln City Council members agree, revoking the business permit that allows the company to operate in Lincoln by declaring the propane facility a public nuisance, saying the operation is detrimental to the public’s health and safety.
“It’s time. It is too dangerous. It’s got to leave,” said Kalbach.
But Northern Energy argued it spent a lot of money on safety upgrades.
Joe Ferriera, who has owned the home across the street for the last 20 years, may be one of the few on the company’s side.
“I believe that the propane company has taken care of everything over there. It was an accident—accidents happen.”
The company told the city there’s a 1-in-37-million chance that a fire similar to 2011’s would happen again.
But Strong says the majority of Lincoln does not want to take that risk.
“It’s been there for a long time, but at this point, it’s time to move it away to where everybody’s safe.”
Cal-OSHA found an employee working on the tanker failed to wear protective and proper gear, causing static electricity, which ignited the fire.
North Energy is appealing the citation that says the company failed to fully train its employees.