Walking Tour of Safety Issues at Christensen Oil, Provo UT

We have had many discussions with Provo City Council, the Fire Department, and Neighborhood Services. 

We are still unsatisfied with many aspects of operations and proposed developments at Christensen Oil.

The following is a walking tour around the perimeter of Christensen Oil, where anybody can walk around the Christensen Oil block and can see our concerns. 

Start at the “North Gate”, about 270 E 500 S. 

1) North Warehouse
2) Tanks too close to property line

Next stop, “East Gate”, about 590 S 300 E. 

3) Plastic barrels of oil too close to property line
4) Plastic barrels stored on gravel, without spill protection. 
5) Pallets too close to other stored material

Next stop, South Side, east of main fuel silos

6) View location of proposed oil tanks
7) View location of proposed gasoline tanks
8) Tent, turned into shed, without correct permit

Final stop, race car fueling station, about 525 S 200 E. 
9) Tanker trucks parked at property line
10) Gasoline tanker trucks too close to homes (best practices concern)
Photos and explanations in the following pages

1) North Warehouse, not suitable for hazardous material storage

The north warehouse was built in stages between 1973 and 1990.  It was never intended to be used to store oil. 

Christensen Oil purchased the land as residential lots, demolished a house, then petitioned to have the land rezoned as manufacturing. 

The Maeser Neighborhood was concerned about expansion of the oil company into the residential parts of the neighborhood, but consented to the rezone with the stipulation that the warehouse not be used to store flammable or combustible liquids.  Todd Christensen agreed, and signed a covenant with the city agreeing to never store flammable or combustible liquids in the warehouse. 

Our primary issue:
* Violated covenant with city.
Christensen covenanted to not store oil on this site, now they want to store 200,000 gallons of oil in plastic barrels!  This is not a good fit for a residential neighborhood!  They should purchase a warehouse in an area suitable for oil storage if they want to store more oil! 
* Doesn’t meet fire code
Fire code requires an update to buildings to meet current building code when the submit a plan for “change of use” (2018 IFC 102.4).  Fire Chief Jim Miguel told us there isn’t the political will to require a building code updgrade.  Neighborhood Services director Gary McGinn said “We’ll consider it” but was not encouraging in his tone of voice! 

Our other issues:
* Doesn’t have fire exits. 
* Too close to property line on west side of building
* Too close to oil storage tanks on east side of building. 

2) Oil tanks too close to property line. 

Look through the gate, you see 18 oil tanks between the warehouse and people’s homes. 

The rear three tanks on the left are too close to the property line — 5’ required, they are only 39” from the fence!  (per 1997 Uniform Fire Code Table 7902.2-E and 2018 IFC 5704.2.9.1)

The rear three tanks to the south are too close to the storage shed.  5’ required, they only have 18” clearance. 

Note that the house in the photo was built in 1890.  The oil tanks were built in 1999 — 109 years later. 

An oil industry insider remarked
I have never seen hydrocarbon stored this close to residences before.  in the event of a fire, how would fire department access?  seems tight for most apparatus?

3) Plastic barrels of oil stored too close to the property line

Plastic barrels in large quantities are required to be stored 10 feet from the property line.  There are over 100 plastic barrels here stored only 5 feet from the property line.  And they are next to a private residence, where people live and sleep! 

Per IFC 2018 Table 5704.4.2


4) Plastic barrels of oil stored without spill protection. 

Stored oil is not allowed to be stored where if a tank was punctured, it would leak on the ground.  There are over 100 plastic barrels stored here, of 330 gallons each.  They sometimes leak, and it goes into the soil/groundwater. 

Per 2018 IFC 5004.2

5) Wooden pallets stored too close to other materials. 

Up to 50 wooden pallets can be stored within 7.5’ of other stored materials. 

51 more more pallets must be at least 15’ from other stored materials. 

Christensen usually has between 30 and 90 pallets stored just inside the fence here, close to a wooden-decked semi trailer, with plastic barrels of oil on the other side. 

Fire Chief Jim Miguel and Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield have brushed off our concerns, claiming that 2018 IFC 315.7.6 doesn’t apply here.  

6) Tent/shed without proper permit. 

Look deep up the yard from the south side, you see a shabby “tin shack” with tattered fabric.

This is a fabric “2 car garage tent” that has been covered in sheet metal.  It sat for 10 years without a building permit.  After we complained, the city granted a permit for the fabric tent, ignoring the sheet metal. 

It is used to store lubricating oil. 

It has many fire code and building code violations, including
* Too close to residential property line to the north
* Too close to oil tanks to the north
* Used to store combustible liquids (not allowed)
* Doesn’t meet International Building Code standards
* Doesn’t have emergency exit to north for employees. 

If you look carefully, you should be able to see this from the 600 S fence.  Very shabby. 

7) Proposed new oil tanks

The 14 new oil tanks will go between the “tent/shed” and the tan warehouse. 

It’s hard to see from the street, but it’s easy to tell that there is already a lot of stuff back there, and if there was a fire it would be hard for firefighters to safely get in there to put it out. 

Several violations, including tank spacing less than 5’ from buildings and tank location more than 150’ from nearest fire lane. 

Here is a view from one of our bedroom windows, showing where the 14 new oil storage tanks would go! 

8) Proposed new gasoline storage tanks

The city wants to let Christensen add 2 new gasoline storage tanks along 600 S.  These could be as big as the tanks to the left — 38’ tall, and holding 30,000 gallons of gasoline! 

This is just 130’ from a private home, where people sleep at night. 

There is no other location in Utah or in the intermountain west where this much gasoline is stored this close to homes. 

9) Gasoline tanker trucks parked overnight close to private homes. 

While this is not a code violation, it is against the industry standard.  There is no other place in the Intermountain West where you see a fleet of gasoline tanker trucks next to homes. 

The problem is that if full gasoline truck catches fire, it will burn for over an hour, with flames 400 feet high. 

And if there are other trucks nearby, they will explode. 

And empty gasoline tanker trucks can simply explode if they are in a minor mishap that tears off the valves on the side of the truck. 

These are also subject to arson and terrorism. 

The Fire Department will not respond to us on the details of their emergency plan, such as how many police officers are required to evacuate children and elderly people in the middle of the night from a 3 block radius if there is a fire here! 

10. Tanker trucks parked too close to property line. 

Every night, Christensen has 7 tanker trucks parked close to the property lines of the 2 houses on 500 S. 

They are required by fire code to park 25’ from the property line. 


Fire Chief Jim Miguel and Fire Marsha Lynn Schofield say that the current parking arrangement, just 8’ from the property line is safe, in their educated opinion. 

We don’t think that we should need to negotiate for fire code compliance! 

We think Chief Miguel and Schofield should be saying “this is a clear example of there the fire code *must* be followed, as there is a high “life risk” of fire with homes being nearby.” 

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