Lightning appparently ignited a fuel tank at Dow Chemical Co. in Croydon early this morning, touching off a three-alarm blaze that sent a large orange ball of flame into the predawn sky.

Firefighters from around the area rushed to the large plant at Routes 413 and State Road in Bucks County, less than a mile from the Burlington-Bristol bridge. The county's hazardous waste material team was also called to the scene,

The fire erupted at about 4 a.m. A large black plume of smoke extended high into the sky above the orange flames. Firefighters battled the blaze not only with water, but with foam.

Robert Miller, 49, of Linden Street in Bristol, said he was awoken by a large noise and was not sure if it was thunder or something else.

"The minute it stopped" he said, referring to the thunder or explosion, "the fire alarm went off immediately. The sirens went off like crazy - like I've never heard them before."

Miller, who lives just two blocks away, said he could hear sirens from local fire stations 52 and 14 called to respond.

The fire appeared to be under control at about 5:15 a.m.