Click photo to enlarge
Firefighters used foam to quickly beat down a fire at a Martinez gas station Wednesday. Two cars were destroyed, but no one was injured.

MARTINEZ -- Witnesses described a frightening scene Wednesday at a gas pump fire that was, thankfully, quickly extinguished before it damaged anything more than cars and the gas station.

Lynn Laybourn still shook after the fire as she told the story. She was pumping gas into her Mitsibushi Langer at the Flex Oil Gas station about 5:30 p.m. when she said, "I heard a noise I can't really describe. It was just so loud."

She turned around to see the front end of Chevrolet Cavalier buried in a nearby gas pump, facing a Ford Hybrid on the opposite side of the pump island. Laybourn's first thought was to get into her car and drive away, but in an instant, she saw flames roaring.

"So at that point," she said. "I just decided to run."

She was unharmed and her car mostly survived the flames, too, suffering some back-end damage. But the other two cars were destroyed and the station at Alhambra Avenue and Virginia Hills Drive was badly damaged.

Nobody was injured in the fire, and officials were still investigating what caused the crash. The roof above the pumps also was damaged. Fire hoses were stretched across all four lanes of Alhambra Avenue, and the smoke initially was very dense, police said.

The driver of the Cavalier was detained by police but was not immediately placed into custody. Police said they were in the initial stages of the investigation.

"We don't know how his car ended up facing in that direction," Pleasant Hill police Sgt. Dave Mathers said. "Right now, the driver is being cooperative."


Advertisement

A clerk inside the gas station market saw the crash, and quickly hit an emergency cut off button, stopping the flow of gas. He declined to comment.

The Hybrid driver was not in his car when the crash took place, police said. He also declined to be interviewed.

Firefighters arrived about 5:35 p.m. and used foam to extinguish the fire in about 15 minutes, said Batallion Chief Clive Savacool of the Contra Costa Fire Protection District.

"There were a lot of flammable liquids on the ground, so that's why the foam was required," he said. "Overall, we're very fortunate it wasn't worse."

The investigation is ongoing, Mathers said, and it was not clear immediately if the driver of the Chevrolet would face criminal charges. An officer at the scene said alcohol did not appear to be a contributing factor.

Alhambra Avenue between Devon Avenue and Blueridge Lane was briefly closed while officials investigated the fire.

Rick Hurd covers breaking news. Contact him at 925-945-4780 and rhurd@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.