Local government

Local firefighters will be honored at Four Rivers Cultural Center ceremony

ONTARIO – The Ontario Fire & Rescue Department will recognize more than a dozen firefighters at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, for their actions during a liquid natural gas fire across from Love’s Travel Stop last fall.

Clint Benson, Ontario Fire & Rescue chief, said 13 firefighters will receive commendations during the ceremony at Four Rivers Cultural Center’s Meyer McLean Theater.

The ceremony is open to the public.

Two employees of Love’s Travel Stop will also be honored, said Benson.

Treasure Valley Paramedics will also honor several of its emergency medical technicians, said Benson.

Fire crews were called to the area near Love’s Travel Stop Nov. 2 when a truck caught fire. Firefighters found the truck and a nearby vacant lot also on fire. The lot is used to transfer liquid natural gas on a mobile trailer to trucks that operate on natural gas.

The driver of the liquid natural gas truck, Joseph Pesola, 61, Meridian, was severely burned in the incident and later transported to a Boise-area hospital. The truck was owned by McNabb Trucking of Pocatello.

Pesola, who had heart surgery in August, was burned over 67% of his body, including 3rd degree burns. He had been back to work after his heart surgery just two weeks.

Pesola was transported to a burn unit in Utah within days of the fire.

Benson said Pesola is now back at home in Meridian.

Benson said the fire was extremely dangerous. He said Ontario firefighters didn’t hesitate when they arrived.

“They didn’t lose a step. It was just action, straight to doing what they needed to do,” said Benson.

The fire posed a significant danger, he said, because one of the natural gas tanks was already ablaze and flames from it were burning into a second tank when firefighters showed up.

“During the investigation we learned that one tank, its outer shell was already breached,” he said.

Liquid natural gas, he said, is “extremely explosive.”

“If it had been a standalone tank and was just venting, it was much less of a hazard. But we had three 10,000-gallon tanks. I had a blowtorch from one tank onto another tank next to a gas station,” said Benson.

Benson said the “clock was ticking” the moment firefighters arrived.

The blaze triggered an evacuation of the truck stop.

Firefighters used a liberal amount of water – and the deployment of the department’s ladder truck – to contain the fire until liquid natural gas valves could be turned off.

Benson said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Benson said other local emergency service organization also played key roles in the effort to suppress the fire.

“It was a team effort. So, we want to just give some folks some recognition and celebrate it turned out as good as it did,” said Benson.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

UPDATED: Fire at Ontario truck stop injures Meridian man

Meridian man transferred to Utah burn unit after vehicle fire at Ontario truck stop

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