Pipeline blast could be seen for miles

Pipeline blastcould be seen for miles

18 February 2007

published by www.chron.com

USA — A huge gas explosion that could be seen for miles erupted Saturday ina rural area in northwest Harris County, about two miles north of FM 529 and twomiles west of Fry Road, officials said.

The fire, near Black Horse ranch, was tapped out by about 7:45 p.m.,officials of the Cy-Fair volunteer fire department said.

Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Mark Braswell said that a31-inch natural gas pipeline exploded at about 6:45 p.m. near Fry Road andLogenbough. The pipeline was “blocked off” about an hour later,Braswell said.

“As of right now, we have no injuries or fatalities,” Braswell said.

The fire was in a three-square mile rural area, away from any homes orbusinesses. Officials of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil andgas pipelines, were on their way to the scene to investigate.

Lt. John Martin, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, said theexplosion and fire were so intense that one captain with the department stayedabout a quarter-mile away from the blaze.

“It was too hot to get any closer,” Martin said, and emergencyvehicles couldn’t approach.

In a press conference later, Lt. Karl Pflughaupt, public information officerfor the Cy-Fair volunteer fire department, said the line is owned by TennesseeGas and Pipeline Co.

Firefighters “backfilled” the break in the pipeline with a form ofnitrogen, he said.

“The fire burned out on its own,” Pflughaupt said. But it did causegrass fires and brush fires. Eight trucks were working at the scene after 9p.m., Pflughaupt said.

Residents were advised to shelter-in-place for about an hour and a half.

“The reason for it was that we wanted residents to stay in, just in casethere were any airborne contaminants,” Pflughaupt said.

Some people voluntarily evacuated, but that number is unknown, he said.

“As of now, there are no known contaminants and and it is safe for thefirefighters to work on the brush fires,” Pflughaupt said.

There was heavy traffic and “complete gridlock” near U.S. 290,Martin said.

Residents in the area reported the loud explosion, “a rumbling sound”and a bright orange “fireball” in the sky.

“The house started to move. It was like an earthquake. Then we openedthe door and saw an orange-yellow light and lots of smoke going up,” saidCarlos Gener, a resident of the Enchanted Rose subdivision.

Kathy Johnson, a resident of the area, said she was driving home when one ofher neighbors called to tell about hearing “a big boom.”

“At the time, I was on 290 and Highway 6, and I could see it from there.It was huge,” Johnson said. “It was something else, it was huge.”

Barbara Bayless, a resident of the 6800 block of Eagle Ridge said she heard”a loud explosion that shook my house” at about 6:30 p.m.

“It was so loud that all of the car alarms went off,” Bayless toldthe Chronicle while the fire was still at its peak.

“Now you can hear this giant whooshing sound like a jet engine.”

Bayless said that the fire appeared to be out at about 7:45 p.m.

“There’s no longer that jet engine sound, and I can’t see the big orangeglow in the sky anymore,” Bayless said.

A Harris County employee, who asked not to be identified, said a bulldozerhad hit the gas line at about 2 p.m. Saturday, according to one Harris Countyemployee. But nothing happened until the explosion nearly fire hours later, hesaid.

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