Gas Line Explodes In West Little Rock, Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- A construction crew ruptured a high-pressure gas line near one of the state's busiest intersections Monday, triggering a fire that melted traffic lights that hung overhead. No one was injured.

Firefighters working during a thunderstorm needed two hours to knock back the flames enough so gas crews could approach the line in an attempt to put out the fire.

``The fire is out but it's still spewing gas and we've evacuated the area for four blocks in all directions,'' Sgt. Terry Hastings of the Little Rock Police Department said about noon _ more than three hours after the pipeline burst. ``The rain and winds are blowing and making it tough.''

The smell of chemicals added to the gas was present miles away. Police closed off the busy two-lane exit ramps at Rodney Parham Road's intersection with I-430, a quarter-mile east of the fire.

Rush-hour traffic had to be diverted and area businesses closed their doors. The flames reached traffic lights dangling above the intersection of Shackelford and Rodney Parham roads.

``Our stoplights are plastic, so the flames did melt some of them,'' Hastings said.

Gas company crews worked for most of the morning to cut the supply of natural gas leading to the break. Firefighters used several hoses to keep a large volume of water pumping on the origin of the fire.

A 2002 traffic count by the state Highway and Transportation Department showed that 32,000 cars use Rodney Parham Road just east of the fire site, making it one of the most-traveled non-interstate routes in Arkansas.