Christensen Oil’s North Warehouse — Not a Good Candidate for Hazardous Material Storage

Christensen Oil has 3 warehouses on the their site at 585 S 200 E.

Two are modern warehouses, specifically built to store lubricating oil.  They have sprinkler systems and spill protection systems.  They were built between 2008 and 2012.

A third, the North Warehouse, is older, built in 3 stages between 1973 and 1990.

It is about 85 feet square, 7500 square feet.

Public documents describe the events of its construction.
1) in 1973, Christensen Oil President Owen Christensen had purchased a Residential zoned lot adjacent to his Light Manufacturing lot.  He then poured a foundation, as if building a warehouse.  City staff inspected it, and determined that it was not illegal to pour a foundation.  But building a building would require a permit.

The city inspectors returned a few weeks later, and saw that a warehouse had been built, without a permit, on the foundation.

2) In 1990, Christensen Oil wanted to expand the warehouse.  And petitioned the city to rezone the land from Residential to Light Manufacturing.  The Maeser Neighborhood Association was concerned about expansion of lubricating oil and fuel in the neighborhood, and requested that if the zoning change be approved, that flammable or combustible liquids not be stored on this parcel of land.

The request was granted, and signed by President Todd Christensen in July, 1990.

Visitors on a site tour in Feb, 2020 were shown inside the two newer warehouses, but not the North Warehouse.  They were shown the sprinklers and the floor drains that would run spilled oil to an oil/water separator machine.

When asked to see the inside of the North Warehouse, they were told it was like the others.

A few months later, after some querying, the city’s Fire Marshal, Lynn Schofield admitted that the North Warehouse did not have sprinklers.

Later, with further querying, it was demonstrated that the building was constructed for “Occupancy B” which does not allow storage of hazardous materials.  And Chief Schofield said that they would be making corrections to ensure that all hazardous materials would be removed from the building.

In the proposed Development Agreement with the City of Provo, the North Warehouse would be upgraded to allow storage of lubricating oil, a combustible liquid.


When “Occupancy” is changed, the building must be brought up to current building code and fire code.   This statute is found on Page 1 of the 2018 IFC.


The North Warehouse has problems that make it unsuitable for storage of hazardous material —
1) It is on land that is covenanted to never be used for storage of oil or fuel
2) It is too close to the west property line — just 2 feet away.  5 or 10 feet required.
3) It has oil storage tanks too close to the east wall, just 4 feet away, 5 feet required.
4) It doesn’t have fire exits for employees in the event of a fire.  Required.
5) It may not have the required fireproofing in the walls for storing oil.
6) It doesn’t have a spill containment system.

Generally, oil storage and residential homes are separated.  Provo’s zoning code has historically separated them.  An increase in oil storage is not a good idea in a residential neighborhood.

But, if it is going to be used for oil storage, it should be required to be fully upgraded, as per the terms of the 2018 International Fire Code Section 102.3.  No leniency should be granted in a facility that is located next to places where children, adults, elderly people and pets live and sleep.



Wooden Pallets at Christensen Oil in Provo Utah are a Fire Hazard

Wooden pallets burn quickly and hot if they catch fire. Christensen Oil in Provo, Utah is storing wooden pallets near flammable liquids and are a fire hazard which need to be addressed.

The 2018 IFC changed the storage regulations for wooden pallets, requiring pallets to be stored at least 7.5′ from all other material for 1 to 50 pallets, and 15′ from all other materials for 51 to 200 pallets.

Click to see full page of General Requirements

Christensen Oil violates the pallet storage statue of International Fire Code Section 315.7
Main pallet page IFC 2018 315.7
2018_IFC_315_Pallets2JPG 2018_IFC_315_Pallets3JPG


This applies to all pallet storage, at all premises, in the state of Utah.

Christensen Oil gets cases of motor oil delivered on wooden pallets, then has the pallets periodically hauled off.

As Christensen also has storage for 100,000 gallons of gasoline and 300,000 gallons of motor oil, it seems prudent that their pallets should be stored in a safe manner.  A stack of pallets catching fire could ignite other things, and cause a chain reaction catastrophe.

The pallets were first stored in the middle of the yard, close to a 20,000 gallon tank of Methanol.  Methanol is the most flammable liquid stored at Christensen, it ignites readily at any temperature.

The Maeser Neighborhood Association complained about the pallets stored there in July, 2019.  The Fire Marshal said that our concerns were unfounded.

Photo submitted in July 2019

One of our members complained in a zoom meeting with Fire Marshal Schofield and Fire Chief Jim Miguel in May, 2020.  Chief Miguel agreed that the storage was unsafe, and the pallets were moved over to the 300 E fence, close to plastic barrels of motor oil.

Photo presented to City Council by Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield, showing about 80 pallets stacked less than 15′ from plastic barrels of motor oil on the site.  May 2020
20200529_PalletsJPGWe complained again in June, this time in writing,  because the pallet were too close to the stored barrels of motor oil and too close to the property line.  We submitted a complaint through <a href=””>Provo City’s zoning enforcement website.</a>

The pallets were moved a little farther south, and 7.5′ from the parked semi trailer and 10′ from the property line, thus in compliance the 2018 IFC.  Which allows this spacing for pallet piles of under 50 pallets.

In early August 2020, the oil company began storing a larger number of pallets at this location — greater than 50, which triggered the requirement for a 15′ separation.

As of Thursday, August 6, there were 64 pallets in the pile, thus constituting a violation of fire code and putting neighbors at risk of a pallet fire that could propagate to the wooden-floored truck and the 100 gallon barrel of diesel fuel, and to other combustible items on site.

We sent a personal email to Provo City Fire Chief Jim Miguel, who stated that we were interpreting the code incorrectly, and that pallet spacing distance requirements only applied to pallet storage yards, not general businesses.


However, a careful reading of the code above demonstrates that it applies to all businesses.  And document produced by the Utah Fire Marshal’s office to introduce the new fire code to Utah Fire Officials also states clearly that the 2018 Fire Code applies to all premises that use wooden pallets.

We will continue to complain.

You can complain too.
1) Fill out a complaint at Provo city’s Code Compliance Website, or
2) Contact Provo City Fire Chief Jim Miguel at and ask him to ensure that all fire codes are enforced at Christensen Oil.

Posted by Maeser Neighbors for Safety

Improper Storage Plastic Barrels of Motor Oil (Maeser Neighborhood Complaint #5)

In July, 2019, Provo’s Maeser Neighborhood complained that many plastic barrels of motor oil were improperly stored, leaking, stored where they could leak, etc.

Resolution: The oil barrels are still on-site, without spill or crash protection. Most of the outstanding violations are still current.  Two corrections have been made: the oil barrels stored next to the gasoline silos have been moved, and, the barrels have been moved from 2′ from the property line to 5′ from the property line (10′ separation is required).  

The fire department is proposing that Christensen be allowed to convert one existing warehouse, and build another warehouse to rectify this problem. However, that would increase the storage capacity from the current 40,000 gallons to 689,000 gallons!

The fire department is holding the neighborhood hostage on this one — they will not enforce existing fire code, and are requesting that the neighbors approve the proposal to let the violations continue until a massive increase in storage capacity is built.

Christensen Oil in Provo Totes out of Compliance with Fire Code

In recent years, Christensen Oil has begun using a large number of plastic “totes” for storing lubricating oil outdoors. They are about 300 gallons in capacity, and typically have something like “Castrol 5W-30” oil. We are uncertain if this inventory was stored indoors before, or if it is a new line of business for them.

While we like to see businesses doing well, the proliferation of these plastic totes decreases the resale value of our homes, reduces the quality of our lives, and increases the risk of catastrophic fire.

We have see several possible fire code violations with these “totes” by our reading of 5704.4
Outdoor storage of portable tanks
1) Totes stored too close to the property line
2) Totes stored on gravel without spill confinement
3) Totes stored in inappropriate places, like on a bulk oil dispensing station
4) Totes stored too close to combustible material
5) Totes stored without proper crash protection
6) Diesel fuel stored in totes, which are not an appropriate storage vessel.
Please take appropriate measures to keep our neighborhood safe!

plastic “totes” storing lubricating oil Christensen Oil Provo Utah

These totes are only 24” from the fence Totes against the fence, 554 S 300 E

1 )Totes stored up against property line of 554 S 300 E
About 50 plastic “totes” are stored up against the fence line of the home at 554 S 300 E. IFC Table 5704.2 states that Class III liquids (Lubricating oil) has a “minimum distance to lot line of a property that can be built upon.” of 10 feet. Can you have Christensen Oil move the “totes” of lubricating oil 10′ away from the property line?

50 totes stored without containment pallets Totes in foreground are full

2) Totes are stored on gravel surfaces.
Totes can only be stored on gravel surfaces if they are on approved containment pallets (5704.3). or are on surfaces with secondary containment (5704.4.3 and 5004.2).

As Christensen Oil does not have any available outdoor storage areas with secondary containment, can you have them purchase approved containment pallets and use them with their totes of lubricating oil?

Christensen Oil “Operations” Not in Compliance with Current Utah Fire Code

Complaint: Many of Christensen Oil’s operations conducted there are done in a way that is not in compliance with the current fire code.

Utah has adopted the International Fire Code (IFC) as the state fire code.  The IFC is published by the International Code Council (ICC), and updated every three years.  The ICC also publishes the International Building Code (IBC), International Plumbing Code (IPC) etc.  See ICC Codes here.

The International Fire Code is a 500 page document, adopted as code by most US states

The 2018 IFC is available in digital form here:

Most of the ICC’s codes are about construction.  Not about maintenance or operations.  The Building Code, Plumbing Code, etc. dictate what can be built, and businesses and building owners only need to be concerned about the code when something is being constructed or modified.  For instance, a house built in 1990 had to comply with the applicable codes at the time, but the owner of the house does not need to change anything to meet more stringent codes enacted after the building was built.  Unless, they want to change something, then the new codes apply to the new construction.

Much of the IFC, however is different.  Like the other codes, it has a lot of construction requirements.  But it also has operational requirements, maintenance requirements and administrative requirements.  And these statues apply retroactively to existing operations.

So, unlike the building code, whenever a new IFC edition comes out, business need to be aware of it, and modify certain aspects of their business to comply with the new code.

The “Operations, maintenance and administration” statute is in the “scope” section, found on Page 1 of the 500 page code book, and thus applies to all operational statues in the code.

Page 1 of the Fire Code states that the scope is to apply to existing operations
Operational provision in the Fire Code apply to “Existing conditions and operations”

The ICC Opinion Desk clarifies that “While typical operational and maintenance provisions of the IFC are intended to be retroactive, construction related provisions are not subject to the applicability provisions in Section 102.1.” (ICC email, Feb 26, 2020)

For instance, operations at a bulk petroleum facility include:
* Where trucks are parked overnight
* Where material is stored in warehouses
* Where trucks parked when transferring gasoline
* How close to property lines materials can be stored
* How much combustible liquid can be stored in a given location
* Whether materials with a fire risk can be stored next to each other, or need to be separated.

This is relevant in the case of Christensen Oil.  Many of the operations conducted there are done in a way that is not in compliance with the current fire code.

In the past, Provo Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield would often overlook operations that did not conform to modern fire code.

Recently, our group Maeser Neighbors for Safety, has started making formal complaints about operations that are not in compliance with current fire code, he has begun to enforce some of the apparent violations, while allowing other apparent violations to continue.

We intend to keep making requests that the individual operations at Christensen Oil be brought up to current code.

Ted Buehler
Aug 4, 2020

Christensen Oil – Storing Combustible Liquids Near Oil Storage Tanks

In summer, 2019, Christensen Oil was storing combustible liquids, wooden pallets, and other material within 25 feet of gasoline and oil storage tanks.  
The Maeser Neighborhood complained about this to the Fire Department.  

Christensen Oil stores combustible materials within 25' of a tank Provo Utah

Resolution — some materials have been moved farther away — the oil storage trailer, the wooden pallets, and many of the plastic barrels.  But some remain — plastic barrels on top of fueling stations, abandoned vehicles with rubber tires and wooden truck beds, and empty plastic barrels stored in a shipping container.  

Clear distance from oil and gasoline storage tanks
Observation: Between June 2018 and May 2019, Christensen Oil Co. has placed many combustible materials next to its main oil and gasoline storage tanks.

In 2018, the tanks were relatively clear to the west, east and south, with only a little clutter on the north.

Today, they are packed in with many different types of combustibles – parked vehicles, totes of lubricating oil, totes of diesel fuel, wooden pallets, empty (but not cleaned) totes that previously held oil, and shipping containers with unknown combustibles inside.

Christensen Oil Provo Utah Code Violation storing combustible materials near tanks.

This pile of stored supplies and combustible material makes a fire around the tanks much more likely to turn catastrophic. There is a mixture of highly flammable material stored in proximity with high flashpoint material that could catch fire and lead to a catastrophic series of escalations.

For instance, if the pallets caught fire, or if a pool of spilled gasoline caught fire, the resulting fire would melt the lube oil (Class III(B)) totes, and heat up the Class III(B) oil to its burning temperature of 300 degrees. With 8 totes of burning oil there would be enough BTUs of heat to put the gasoline tanks and piping at risk of melting, and then there would be 60,000 gallons of gasoline burning, which would incinerate 4 to 10 blocks of residential neighborhood.

The disorderly storage of combustible material around the tanks not only adds to fire risk, and fire spreading, but also reduces the options that firefighters have to extinguish or contain the fire. Storage of combustible material on all four sides not only adds to fire risk, but blocks visual and physical access to fight any fires.

Christensen Oil stores combustibles stores adjacent to tanks in Provo Utah

5004.11 Clearance from combustibles. The area surrounding an outdoor storage area or tank shall be kept clear of combustible material or vegetation for a minimum distance of 25 feet.

Oil and gasoline tank Requests:
Maintain a 25′ clear distance around the tanks. Move all stored vehicles, totes of diesel fuel, totes of lubrication oil, empty totes, wooden pallets, tanker trailers of petroleum products, and shipping containers of unknown contents more than 25′ from tanks.

Christensen Oil Provo – Stationary Dispensing Trailers Issue

Christensen is using old gasoline tanker trailers as stationary tanks for storing motor oil.

Problem: Tanker trailers used as stationary storage and dispensing tanks
Observation: Christensen Oil has parked two tanker trailers at the dispensing station at their south gate.

  • West truck license plate is ID TJ9710 (nonexpiring).
  • East truck is ID TJ9713 (nonexpiring).

They appear to be used for the storage and dispensing of petrochemicals. They have no
hazardous material placard, so we hope they are just lubricating oil, rather than gasoline or diesel fuel.

5003.5 and 5704.2.3.2 No hazardous materials placard on tanker trailer (required even for
Class III(B) combustible liquids)

5004.2.2.4 Secondary containment for outdoor storage tanks must be designed to control a
spill from the largest vessel. (This trailer has no spill containment).

Photo 1 2. July 10, 2019, when we walked down the street after-hours, we smelled gasoline and saw a bucket under one of the valves. This combination seemed dangerous, as there could be gasoline in the open bucket, leaking from the tank.

5704.2.2 Truck trailer shall not be used as stationary storage tanks

5704. Piping from above ground tanks needs to have vehicle impact protection. (This
has none).

5004.11 Stationary tanks may not have combustible materials stored within 25′ (These are
about 5′ from the gasoline storage tanks).

Possible violation – vehicle registration. These trailers are registered in Idaho, but have not left the State of Utah for several months. Verify that they have not exceeded the time period required for in-state use, and ensure that the appropriate State of Utah authority is receiving revenue for the registration of these trailers.

Please have the stationary tanker trailers removed from this location.
And ensure that no tanker trailers are used for storage or dispensing in the future.

If Christensen Oil does not remove the trailers, “red flag” them to have them removed from
the property. And assess monthly fines for failure to comply with code.

Christensen Oil Complaint #1 – No Permits for New Oil Storage Tank

In July, 2019, the Maeser Neighborhood complained that Christensen Oil had installed an oil storage tank without a permit. Construction permits for oil tanks are required by the International Fire Code, and have been required in Utah since at least 1997.  

On investigation, the Fire Department replied that a permit may not be needed, due to a Summary Judgement awarded Christensen in 2000.  

Later, the Fire Department reported that the tank contains urea, not oil.  It is unclear whether the tank ever contained oil.  

Also, our complaints of section 5704.2.9 were made in error, and do not apply to this particular tank.

Original Complaint:
Christensen Oil Co. added a new oil storage tank sometime in 2017 or 2018. It is about 20′ tall and 9′ diameter, 1200 cubic feet, or 9000 gallons. It is in the NE corner of the other vertical storage tanks near the intersection of 300 E and 600 S. We understand that no construction permit was obtained for this tank, nor is there an operating permit on file for this tank. Nor is there a Conditional Use Permit for a bulk petroleum storage tank in a Light Manufacturing zone.

Christensen Oil Co. President Todd Christensen has personally testified to neighborhood residents that he does not need to obtain permits to install tanks. We believe he has also testified to city code enforcement officials that he does not need permits to install tanks.

Photo 2. 15 fuel storage “silos” in 2017 Photo 3. 16 fuel storage silos in 2018. In May, 2019, Christensen Oil applied for a building permit to add additional oil tanks. The design for these tanks was found to be deficient in several aspects of the 2015 Fire Code. Given that President Todd Christensen believes he is exempt from some or many of the statues of International Fire Code, he has recently applied for a permit to build oil tanks that are in violation of fire code, we are concerned that this tank may have many fire code violations, in the construction, seismic reinforcement, piping, or other elements.

Violations: 105.1.1 Permit Required. Permits required for installing or modifying systems and equipment that are regulated by this code. Flammable and combustible liquids. A construction permit is required… to install, construct, or alter…. tanks.

Photo 4. Dispensing piping for tank 16 does not have vehicle crash protection. This tank needs to be reviewed for all statutes of 5704.2.9, including

5704.2.7 Design, fabrication and construction of tanks – does this tank meet the basic parameters set here?

5704. Fire protection of supports – does it have fire protection?

5704. distances from other tanks

5704. needs to be in spacing compliance with NFPA Table

5704. Normal and emergency venting

5704. Secondary containment

5704. Crash protection required at dispensing stations

5704. Overfill protection

5704. Pipe fill connections (appears to use “grandfathered” pipe connections – needs
to be upgraded for a new tank!)

5704. Top openings – this tank appear to fill and drain through the bottom. Must be modified to fill and drain through the top

5704.2.10 Diking capacity – does the “berm” around the tank and adjacent tanks contain
enough capacity to contain a spill from this tank?

Provo City Code 14.36.040.(3)(a), Adding additional oil storage tanks is also a violation of Provo City Code which governs whether nonconforming uses may be expanded.

Requires Conditional Use Permit, requires Certification of Occupancy, and Final Inspection from the authority having jurisdiction.

In the absence of permits and zoning, this tank should be removed.
a) Determine if this tank was installed without a permit, and whether it passes the visually
verifiable code requirements: piping from top, crash protection at dispensing station, minimum size retention facility for tank rupture, minimum standards for spill retention and keeping out of adjacent storm sewers or waterways.

b) If it fails any of the visually verifiable code requirements, then red tag it and have it taken out of service while a full engineering assessment is performed.

c) Levy a monthly fine, from the date of original violation, if this tank is found to be in violation of fire or zoning code and is not immediately taken out of service.