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Waste oil in a 4,000-gallon tank burned furiously for about 30 minutes Monday afternoon before firefighters could extinguish a blaze that sent up a column of thick, black smoke that could be seen in downtown Salt Lake City.

A worker at Protech Oil & Chemical, 1374 E. Main, Lehi, had checked a heating unit on the tank just before 1 p.m. and was returning to the building about 150 feet away when he heard a muffled explosion and turned to see fire erupting from the top of the tank."I watched it blow," said Rick Sewell, who has been with the company about two years. "I went screaming into the office: `Call the fire department, shut off the gas.' "

No one was injured. Lehi Fire Chief Grant Smith said it appears it was an accident.

Several tanks and a large truck were damaged by the fire.

The tank that burned is one of several used by the company to dewater waste motor oil that is then sold as an industrial burning oil. The tanks have natural gas heaters that heat oil to cause the water to evaporate.

About 2,500 gallons of waste oil had been pumped into the tank Friday, said warehouse manager Dave Simmons.