Fires and explosions make news across the country daily. Set a Google alert for the term “home explosion” or “gas explosion,” and you will be inundated with updates.
Here are two headlines from this week:
St. Paul home explosion injures at least 1
From Minneapolis Star Tribune: A St. Paul home explosion this morning sent at least one person to the hospital. According to emergency dispatch audio, two males and a toddler were hurt in the blast.
The first call came in just after 8:30 a.m. in the vicinity of the 600 block of Payne Avenue. A St. Paul Fire Department spokesperson said one man in the house was taken to the hospital; his condition is unknown.
Assistant fire chief Matt Simpson said eight adults were displaced by the explosion, though it was not clear if they were in the house that exploded.
A number of people who live nearby saw or heard the explosion.
Jerry Schaefer, who had just opened his nearby floral shop, Jerry’s Roses, said he was looking out his front window when the St. Paul home explosion occurred. He said the explosion sounded like a sonic boom, knocking merchandise off shelves and rattling windows, and he said he saw flames shoot as high as 50 feet.
“It was like a scene out of a movie,” Schaefer said. “It was crazy to see.”
Natasha Mancia, who lives close to the blast, was awake but still in bed when she heard what she thought was a car crashing into her house. “It was nothing I ever heard before,” she said. She said there were windows blown out on her house.
Mancia, who also works at a convenience store in the area, said an older man lived in the house that exploded. She said he was a regular at the convenience store; she said she doesn’t know his name.
By late in the morning, many neighborhood residents were milling near the explosion site, some taking pictures or video of the destruction. There were pieces of the wooden house littering nearby yards and streets, with some debris in trees as high as 20 to 30 feet off the ground.
Texas plant explosion injures two
From KXNW-TV, Fayetteville, Arkansas: Two contract workers were hurt Friday morning in a plant explosion in Coyanosa, Texas. One was airlifted to Lubbock; the other was taken to the Ward County Hospital in a private vehicle. No word yet on how badly they were hurt.
Jessie Dominguez, emergency manager and coordinator for Pecos County, said a 24-inch pipe exploded just outside the Waha Gas Plant. Dominguez said officials are allowing the fire to burn out.
The Imperial Fire Department, Fort Stockton Fire Department and Pecos County EMS responded to the scene.
A statement from Energy Transfer: “The area has been isolated and contained so the fire can safely burn itself out which is standard operating procedure. We will provide updates as information becomes available.”
Still no gas service for some in Massachusetts
From Associated Press: Families in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts had a challenging Thanksgiving more than two months after natural gas explosions and fires leveled homes and left thousands without heat or hot water.
More than 2,000 homes are still without gas service in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover after gas lines were overpressurized during an otherwise routine pipeline replacement project, triggering dozens of explosions and fires.
While some residents have chosen to tough it out in chilly homes, more than 1,500 spent the holiday in hotels, apartments and trailers paid for by Columbia Gas.
The utility company is responsible for the Sept. 13 fires that killed one, injured dozens and destroyed or damaged more than 100 structures.
At the trailer park set up on Lawrence’s South Common, Jose Grullon said his family’s holiday was more modest than usual.
Grullon, 45, along with his pregnant wife and two young children, moved into a trailer last month after it became too cold in their apartment. Like most affected homes, theirs didn’t suffer any fires or explosions, but the hot water heater, boiler and other gas appliances were compromised by the over-pressurization and need to be replaced before gas service can be restored.
Grullon said their space was simply too small to host a festive party with food from his native Dominican Republic, and the kind of dancing and music that he normally throws for family and friends. The family instead ate the turkey dinner Columbia Gas provided to trailer residents.
“It’s not going to be a happy mood at all. It’s going to be a sad situation,” he said earlier this week.
Fellow trailer park resident Socorro Guzman took a more positive outlook into the holiday weekend. Guzman, 72, said she’ll be thanking God simply because her family survived. She hosted about a dozen people. “It’s a small place, but we have to celebrate,” she said.
Complicating matters is that temperatures dropped into the 20s.
Officials are concerned about water pipes and tanks freezing, so they’re adding insulation under trailers and making sure every unit has sufficient propane for heating.
“We knew it was going to be cold, but most people don’t spend the winter in an RV,” said Scott Ferson, a spokesman for Columbia Gas. “So it has provided some unique challenges.”
Work continues for Columbia Gas
Utility crews are pressing on with restoration work throughout the affected communities.
After missing a Nov. 19 deadline, Columbia Gas officials said the region’s gas service should be fully restored by December.
Columbia Gas, which also faces federal probes and class-action lawsuits, quickly replaced nearly miles of old gas lines, but restoring service to individual buildings has been more arduous.
Most appliances using natural gas are being replaced and the region’s old housing stock presents additional challenges.
“We’re finding a lot of code issues,” Ferson said. “Each house needs to be addressed almost individually.”