The Sea Cliff Fire Department received a call at 5:38 p.m. on Sunday in response to an underground gasoline tank at Pride Gas Station at 311 Glen Cove Ave. in Sea Cliff.
Hugo Diaz, manager of VIP Auto Service, which is on the same property as Pride Gas, said the fire started when an employee was using a vacuum cleaner to clean off the metal cap of the tank. He said sparks erupted from the vacuum which likely ignited fumes coming from the underground tank, causing the gasoline in the tank to catch fire.
Diaz said the employee suffered burns on his arms, although he is expected to make a full recovery. SCFD Chief William Koopmann said the employee was rushed to a hospital burn unit, most likely at the Nassau County Medical Center, minutes after the fire started via a Nassau County Police helicopter.
First Assistant Chief Jim Ajamian was the first firefighter on site and immediately called the Nassau County Fire Marshal. He said flames were reaching roughly three feet above the ground at their peak.
Koopmann arrived on the scene minutes after and assumed command. He said he immediately contacted the Glenwood Fire Department, as it has a foam tank specifically used to put out gasoline fires. Normal hoses are not capable of putting out gasoline fires, he said, as water tends to sit atop the gasoline instead of smothering the fire. The specialized foam was used to blanket the fire without causing any further explosions.
The fire was contained within 20 minutes, Koopman said, and there was no further human or property damage.
Diaz said the body shop part of VIP Auto is open, although its gas tanks will be out of service until later in the week. He said trucks will be coming in to suck water-contaminated gasoline out, and others will come back to refill them.