BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Authorities have identified the worker killed in Monday’s fire at a Baltimore fuel facility as 52-year-old Earnest Cooper.
Cooper was one of four employees working at Petroleum Management, Inc., in the 5200 block of Curtis Avenue, shortly before 7 a.m. Monday when the facility went up in flames, according to the Baltimore City Fire Department.
The group was working outside the facility when the fire broke out. At some point, Cooper’s coworkers saw the flames engulf the 52-year-old but they were unable to intervene. Cooper was pronounced dead at the scene.
“This is truly a tragic situation,” Baltimore City Fire Chief Niles Ford said. “We know each of the employees tried their best to help their co-worker, but the amount of fire, unfortunately, became too overwhelming to handle.”
When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found flames and smoke throughout the facility. It took crews from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County and BWI nearly three hours to get the three-alarm fire under control.
Tuesday, one of the business owners told WJZ they are “gutted” with grief, they feel “hollow” and “empty.” The owner also said after this tragedy, their company “will never be the same.”
Petroleum Management Inc. is a water treatment facility that works to prevent dangerous chemicals from running off into water sources, but after Monday’s fire, the clean-up was on their front steps.
As WJZ reported Monday, an application for the company’s oil operations permit is currently being reviewed by state regulators.
While records obtained by WJZ indicate the company’s permit was expired, a Maryland Department of the Environment spokesperson said the previous permit remains in effect while the company’s application is under review.
State contractors were back on the scene Tuesday taking air samples.
“I pretty much stayed in yesterday because when I came out I was coughing,” said Vicki Ward who works in the area.
But even before Monday’s fire, people who live in the industrial neighborhood of Curtis Bay were already concerned about the air they were breathing.
“I know Curtis Bay is a lot more forgotten of an area, we are on the edge of Baltimore city so when are they going to take notice of Curtis Bay,” says Bobbie who works in the area.
WJZ contacted The Maryland Department of the Environment for an update on air quality and water tests that were conducted.
“MDE’s Air and Radiation Administration collected seven air samples yesterday in the area at locations recommended by a community activist. Results of this sampling are not yet available,” says Jay Apperson, Deputy Director Office of Communications.
Apperson also said, “In regards to water sampling: we collected more samples today at the same sites in the storm drain system that were also sampled yesterday. Also, samples were collected in Curtis Bay via boat. Samples are en route to the lab for analysis.”
As people here wait for those results and wonder about their own health, they can’t help but think about Mr. Earnest Cooper’s life and the devastated family and friends he’s left behind.
“It’s heartbreaking for the tragedy aspect as you mentioned those who lost the loved one as well as those who were affected around them, you know his coworkers,” says Bobbie.
There’s no word yet on the cause of the fire, which remains under investigation by the city fire department.