by Madelle Morgan
In the early 1980s I managed the construction of fuel storage facilities in remote Arctic communities, accessible only by air, by ocean during the short summer, or by ice road in winter.
Large steel tanks stored gasoline, heating oil, and aviation fuel.
I gained a very healthy respect for the explosive potential of fuel. Actually, it is the fumes that ignite in a flash, sending the whole tank up in a powerful explosion. Very foolish teens regularly scaled fences to sniff gas from hatches in the tops of these tanks. If they decided to light a cigarette, well, that was a real death experience.
I recall receiving a phone call from a contractor who flew into a remote community to gas-free and dismantle a couple of old horizontal tanks.
Contractor: "Can't do the job."
Me, sitting in an office seven hundred miles away: "Why not?"
Contractor: "Tanks blew up before I arrived."
Because of extreme low outdoor temperatures, fuel pumps at each "tank farm" were located inside small insulated prefab buildings. Here's a photo of my 1981-82 tank farm project at Paulatuk, Northwest Territories, Canada on the shore of the Beaufort Sea.
|Photo Credit: James Malone, June 1, 2010|
In my romantic suspense Diamond Lust, the geologist heroine and her colleague Carter have been locked into one of these fuel dispenser buildings at a diamond mine in the Canadian sub-Arctic.
Overwhelmed by the scale of the fraudulent activities that encompassed diamond production from ore excavation through processing, Petra sank to sit cross-legged on the floor. “Horvath, Security, perhaps a dozen other employees must be in on the fraud. These smugglers covered all the angles. They will never let us live. We are so screwed.”
“Didn’t you notice the AN/FO over there?”
She followed the direction of his nod to a fifty-five-pound sack wedged between two pumps, the label indicating the trade name of an ammonium nitrate blasting agent. A wave of dizziness had her chin dipping to her chest. The smugglers planned one mother of an explosion. Ignited, the dispenser building and its fuel storage tanks outside would erupt into a cataclysmic fireball.
A white ignition cord dangled from a hole poked into the side of the packaging. When the white flashes behind her eyeballs faded, she knee-walked over to the sack, and with her teeth yanked out the cord and metal blasting cap on its buried tip with the intention of gently depositing it on the floor in a far corner.
“A lot of good that’ll do. They don’t have to enter this room to start a fire. They’ll open an exterior valve to flood the ground with fuel, or drop a match into a tank, or—”
“Enough, Carter! I need to think.” Why plan a massive explosion? If eliminating her and Carter were the objective, why wait? A small fire lit at the time they were dumped in the building would have killed them quickly. “They intend to create a major diversion,” she said slowly, “to give them time to escape in the confusion.”
Of course Petra and Carter are saved by the hero in the nick of time!
Don't be FuelishBefore stepping out of the vehicle at a gas station, please leave cell phones and any device that can create a spark or flame inside the vehicle. Don't smoke! Even static electricity can potentially ignite fumes that have collected around the fuel pumps. Be aware. Be safe.
The spark for Madelle's debut novel, Diamond Lust, was the astonishing discovery of high quality diamonds in Canada's far north. She "mined" her northern experiences to write a romantic suspense about diamond smuggling. Diamond Lust is currently unavailable, but a second edition will be released by January, 2015. www.madellemorgan.com