Businesses reopen, residents return home

By: Stephanie Dumm Gold Country News Service
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Downtown Lincoln appeared to be back to normal Thursday afternoon after evacuees from a tanker fire returned to their homes and businesses reopened. An estimated 10,000 residents were ordered to leave their homes after a tanker car caught fire at noon on Tuesday at Northern Propane Energy, located off of Nicolaus Road near J Street The tank contained about 29,000 gallons of propane. The fire was extinguished early Thursday morning after fire crews filled the tank with foam and water to expel any leftover propane vapor, said Lincoln public information officer Jill Thompson. “It was around 4 a.m. when the vapor left the tank,” Thompson said. “Once they filled it (the tank) up, it would burp flames.” The tanker will remain at its current location for the time being, according to Thompson. “Law enforcement is protecting it for whoever will take over the investigation,” Thompson said. Lincoln Police Chief Paul Shelgren said the police department’s Citizens on Patrol group, a volunteer organization, are making sure people stay out of the tank’s area. “No one is supposed to be there except investigators,” Thompson said. The tank will not be moved until the investigation is done, according to Thompson, who said the Federal Railroad Administration will be in Lincoln after 1 p.m. on Friday to investigate. She said it is not known when the investigation will be completed. “We are hoping we will have a better feel for the time it will take to investigate by the time they get here,” Thompson said. “We are keeping the site secure so the investigators can do their job.” Thompson also said it is unknown when the tank will be removed from its current location. “It’s not going anywhere immediately,” Thompson said. When asked how much the tank fire incident will cost the city, Thompson said that is also not known at this time. “We have lots of paperwork and documentation of the incident itself,” Thompson said. “We at City Hall can aid in that to some extent. We need input on how many hours (public safety) did work.” City Hall on Sixth Street reopened Thursday morning, and was closed since noon on Tuesday. “The only thing that isn’t back to normal is school,” Thompson said. When asked if it’s a good thing that City Hall is up and running again, Thompson replied with an “absolutely.” “It’s nice to get back into the business of running the city and really we’re here to serve our residents,” Thompson said. “We’re happy the residents are home. We know they are safe and we can get back in place to serve them.” The Lincoln Police Department, located on Seventh Street, reopened on Thursday also. Lincoln’s dispatch was temporarily relocated on Tuesday and Wednesday to Rocklin. “It’s nice to be home again,” Shelgren said. Officers did return to the police station from time to time to retrieve equipment such as radios, uniforms and duty vehicles, according to Shelgren. George Fotopoulos, owner of Foto’s Market on Fifth Street, described the closure as “terrible.” “In the 35 years I’ve been here, this is the first time Foto’s closed for a full day,” Fotopoulos said. “We closed the store at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday. I was upset but I understood the situation.” He said his shoppers were “happy happy” that the store had reopened, and commended local public safety for their work. “I think they did a very good job with the press conferences, they were very informative,” Fotopoulos said. “They kept the public calm and orderly in the evacuation and did an excellent job.” One downtown business was supposed to open their doors for the first time ever, but had to reschedule. That was Katie Trott, who is owner of Sew Katie Jean, a quilting, sewing and fabric shop located at 603 Fifth St. “My kids were supposed to go to school on Wednesday so that was the opening day,” Trott said. “I was all excited, and then let down.” Her new soft opening will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday. “I had told people that I was going to be opening, so I Facebooked and Twittered that I wouldn’t be opening,” Trott said. Two of her three children aren’t too sad about school not opening. “My daughter is sad about not going to school, but my (two) boys were very happy,” Trott said.