Blast, Fire Hit Pa. Natural Gas Site; Three Hurt

AVELLA, Pa. --

A massive fire that burned in several liquid storage tanks at a natural gas facility in western Pennsylvania is out, but several local fire departments are helping to make sure the fire does not restart.

At least three contract workers at the site, owned by Chesapeake Appalachia, were injured. Two were flown by medical helicopter to Pittsburgh hospitals. The third was taken by ambulance. Their names and conditions have not been released.

"It's scary," said Dana Checchini, who lives nearby. "Even if you don't know the person, it still affects you, because you know somebody had to have gotten hurt by it."

Emergency officials in Washington County say the blast in Independence Township was reported at about 6:20 p.m. Wednesday.

The location is roughly 15 miles southeast of Follansbee, W.Va., and nearly every volunteer fire department in Brooke County crossed the state line to assist in the firefighting effort.

Five "frack tanks" -- steel tanks used to hold liquids -- caught fire and burned until just before 10 p.m., according to Katy Gresh, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental protection.

Three gas wells on the site were not affected.

While regulators believe there is no threat to residents living nearby, many reported feeling the initial blast and several secondary explosions.

"I was sitting in my house and I heard this loud boom," said Corrie Froats, who lives less than a mile from the site.

The DEP will continue its investigation Thursday, Gresh said.

Brooke County's tanker task force provided mutual aid to fire departments from Washington County. That includes departments from Franklin Township, Hooverson Heights, Wellsburg, Follansbee, Bethany Pike, Bethany, Beech Bottom and McKinleyville.

Earlier this year, fire departments from throughout Brooke County were invited to attend special training sessions with companies that specialize in fighting natural gas fires.

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