Tank Fire

Thick black smoke billows into the air as fire crews battle a massive blaze at the fuel tank farm next to the Canal Electric Plant on August 5, 1980.

We bumped into Kay Alvezi, the wife of former Sandwich Fire Chief Freddie Alvezi, this week at Stop & Shop. In her hands was the latest issue of the Sandwich Enterprise with the story about the 40th anniversary of the big fuel tank fire on the front page.

Freddie was chief at the time of that big fire.

Kay said she remembered “Torrid Tuesday” well and asked if we were in town then. No, we answered. The fire was about 10 years before our time in Sandwich.

But the Enterprise itself was there. We had a staff photographer on scene, and it was his photos that sparked the idea for last week’s article.

For sure, we had heard stories about the fire. How big it was. How awfully hot the day was. But until reporter Katie Goers dug up our archives stories and spoke to firefighters who were there, we never had the particulars.

The fact that emergency crews commandeered a boat, filled it with ice water and brought it to the scene to dunk overheated firefighters into is a striking, priceless detail.

Sorting through the photos, we were also struck by how much firefighting has changed in 40 years.

First off, many of the trucks on scene look ancient. With their big, rounded fenders, they look like vehicles out of the 1940s.

We were also surprised to see what appeared to be bystanders mingling at the scene with the fire crews. No fire helmets, no jackets. Just short-sleeve shirts and jeans, standing right up close to the action, gazing up at the raging fire.

And to hear the experts tell it, there was a real danger of an explosion.

Allowing non-emergency personnel that close to an active fire is verboten these days, even if that person has press credentials.

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