Aug 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm
ST. CLOUD / WAITE PARK, Minn. (KNSI) - Jim Feneis says, throughout his professional career, he's held firm to the principle that "the customer always comes first."
Now, in the wake of what is believed to be a calculated act of vandalism when a destructive chemical was found in the well-known local fuel company's storage tanks, Feneis says he's more committed to that principle than ever before.
The unknown substance, believed to have been intentionally poured into the tanks at First Fuel's Lincoln Avenue and Waite Park locations, destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fuel, and delivered tens of thousands of dollars in damages to private and city vehicles.
The contamination was reported to the St. Cloud Police Department last week. Feneis tells KNSI News when the first customer report of engine trouble was reported on the morning of August 20th, they knew "they had a serious problem on their hands."
"Within 30 to 40 minutes, we shut down the two fuel banks in question," Feneis says. "We moved out over 55,000 gallons of diesel fuel, vacuumed the tanks, vacuumed the lines, brought in fresh fuel, and had the problem recified before sundown that same day."
Damage was reported in 59 vehicles, and Feneis says a large chunk of time was spent notifying customers who hadn't yet reported problems, and replacing the tainted fuel.
Feneis says the vehicles that reported the greatest problems were those built after 2007.
"It seemed to mess with the emissions on the newer diesel engines," Feneis explains. "There are such things as DPFs - Diesel Particulate Filters - and this attack seems to be focused on the engines with the emission controls."
Feneis says First Fuel has partnered with law enforcement officials from St. Cloud and Waite Park to determine who is responsible.
The company was founded by Feneis' father in 1963, and he tells KNSI that, because he's devoted his life to building a strong reputation, the vandalism has taken a significant toll on him.
"I have a hard time sleeping and eating," Feneis says. "It's a brutal blow. But, we're working with authorities closely, and the Minnesota Department of Weights and Measures is involved. We have private investigators working on this, and we will catch whoever did this."
Anyone with information on the incident is urged to reach out to the St. Cloud Police Department at 345-4444, the Waite Park Police at 251-6300, or Tri-County Crime Stoppers at (800) 255-1301.
Temp: -8°F (-22°C)
Wind: 9mph W