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Liquefied gas pipeline explodes in rural Texas

Residents of Milford are safely evacuated after a crew drills into the line, causing the blast. The experience of April's deadly explosion in nearby West helps guide the response.

November 14, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • A fire burns in an open field outside Milford, Texas, after a gas pipeline exploded.
A fire burns in an open field outside Milford, Texas, after a gas pipeline… (Larry W. Smith / European…)

HOUSTON — Officials are letting a fire burn out at a Chevron liquefied gas pipeline that exploded in a rural north Texas town Thursday when a construction crew accidentally drilled into the conduit.

The town of Milford, about 50 miles south of Dallas, was evacuated, with many of its 700 residents going to a gym in the nearby town of Italy. They are not expected to be allowed back until Friday morning at the earliest, Milford Fire Chief Mark Jackson said. He said no injuries were reported after the 9:40 a.m. blast.

The 10-inch line that exploded was operated by Chevron. The interstate pipeline is regulated by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which sent inspectors to the scene Thursday, as did the Environmental Protection Agency.

Chevron officials released a statement saying a crew doing "excavation activities" at the site reported a rupture. Five workers were evacuated, but none were injured.

Chevron said the line "has been shut off and residual burn continues," while the company monitors a nearby Chevron-owned 14-inch liquefied gas pipeline.

Tom Hemrick, Hill County Emergency Management director, said the explosion occurred after a construction crew accidentally drilled into the 10-inch line. He said the 14-inch line sits a few feet away from the first and was still flowing because stopping it would increase the risk of a second explosion.

Late Thursday, the fire chief said the fire could still affect the second pipeline.

"There are some signs, but we're monitoring that," Jackson said.

For many, news of the explosion brought back memories of the massive blast in April at a fertilizer plant about 30 miles south in West, Texas. That explosion killed 15 people, including a dozen volunteer firefighters, and injured more than 160 others.

West had a population of about 2,800, some of whom were living in an apartment complex and nursing home near the plant. In Milford, the explosion occurred in a rural area far from most homes, officials said.

Some emergency responders killed in West had rushed to fight the fire that followed the explosion. In Milford, emergency personnel kept their distance after the blast, managing evacuations and securing the scene, Hemrick said.

"Most of the people here on this scene were at West. It's amazing how smooth the response has been," he said, "We learned a lot from West. It went by the book; everybody was accountable and we knew who was here. Right now it's really just a waiting game."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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