Texas Pipeline Explosion Challenges Rural Responders

Explosions of natural gas pipelines are unexpected, violent, and frequently result in significant loss of lives and property. They can occur anytime, anyplace on land and at sea. An Internet sampling found the following: On March 18, 1937, a natural...


Explosions of natural gas pipelines are unexpected, violent, and frequently result in significant loss of lives and property. They can occur anytime, anyplace on land and at sea. An Internet sampling found the following: On March 18, 1937, a natural gas leak caused an explosion that destroyed...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

Explosions of natural gas pipelines are unexpected, violent, and frequently result in significant loss of lives and property. They can occur anytime, anyplace on land and at sea. An Internet sampling found the following: On March 18, 1937, a natural gas leak caused an explosion that destroyed the New London School in New London, TX, killing 300 students and teachers. The East Ohio Gas Co. gas explosion in Cleveland, OH, occurred on the afternoon of Oct. 20, 1944. The resulting gas leak, explosion and associated fires killed 130 people and destroyed one square mile on the city's east side.

Although related safety and technological advances may have incrementally decreased the number of fatalities per incident, escalating usage and ever-increasing demands continue to stress the industry as a whole. On March 4, 1965, a section of pipeline north of Natchitoches, LA, owned by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. exploded due to stress corrosion cracking, killing 17 people. This accident led to President Lyndon B. Johnson's formation of a national pipeline safety agency.

On Dec. 5, 1968, five repairmen responding to a rupture of a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) pipeline near Yutan, NE, were killed when they drove into a vapor cloud and ignited it. A natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline ruptured in Austin, TX, on Feb. 22, 1973, killing six people.

On July 6, 1988, 167 people died when Occidental Petroleum's Alpha offshore production platform on the Piper Field in the North Sea exploded after a gas leak. The April 22, 1992, explosion in Guadalajara, Mexico, killed 206 people, injured nearly 500 and left 15,000 homeless after numerous explosions in the sewer system over four hours in the downtown district of Analco.

The Humberto Vidal Explosion occurred on Nov. 21, 1996, in a shoe store of the same name in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, and killed 33 and injured 69 when the building collapsed. Twelve members of the same family were killed on Aug. 19, 2000, near Carlsbad, NM, when severe internal corrosion caused a natural gas pipeline to explode.

Nighttime Blast

By comparison, the 1,500 residents of Bushland, TX, were fortunate when a pipeline explosion caused by a ruptured El Paso Natural Gas (a subsidiary of Houston-based El Paso Corp.) line pump station in the Prairie West subdivision caused a massive, 10-story geyser of fire and resulting blaze that rocked their homes and lit up the night sky at 1 A.M. on Nov. 5, 2009. The blast created a 14-foot crater, threw potentially lethal chunks of dirt up to 100 feet away and started at least seven brushfires. The shock waves rattled windows in Amarillo, about 15 miles to the west.

The El Paso Corp. owns North America's largest interstate natural gas pipeline system — approximately 42,000 miles — and transports more than a quarter of the natural gas consumed in the United States each day. The company, which ranks in the top 10 domestic independent producers, finds, develops and produces natural gas, oil and natural gas liquids and has a balanced program throughout the United States, Brazil and Egypt.

Potter County Fire/Rescue consists of three paid positions: fire chief/fire marshal and two assistant chiefs. Approximately 70 volunteers respond out of six stations. Potter County Fire/Rescue also has an impressive array of apparatus: seven engines, one reserve engine, five rescue/initial attack trucks, six large wildland engine/tenders, one special operations unit with two trailers, a rehab unit and three command units.

This content continues onto the next page...