According to California authorities a huge gas pipeline explosion generated a fire in Fresno on Friday. The incident stopped the road traffic on a major highway and both directions were closed. 15 people were injured in the accident among which 3 were in critical condition. The rupture of the pipeline occurred at around 2:30 PM.
The fire was caused by a construction crew who accidentally broke a natural gas transmission line. The pipeline had 12 inch (30 cm) and it belonged to Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. Near the state Highway 99 the pipeline was struck by a backhoe. This triggered the fireball which hurt not only the members of the construction but also a jail inmate crew which was nearby.
As a result of the incident both the highway and an adjacent railroad line were closed. The road traffic was closed in both directions and the rail traffic was interrupted in order to check if there was any damage done to a railway bridge over the river.
The California Highway Patrol urged the drivers to use other routes explaining that it was not certain when the highway would open. It took three hours until the highway was reopened.
According to Pete Martinez of the Fresno Fire Department the witnesses saw a large fireball extending nearly 200 feet into the air. The fireball triggered a two-alarm grass fire.
The worker who struck the gas line was critically injured and taken to the hospital by helicopter to receive immediate treatment. Mary Lisa Russell, a spokeswoman for Community Regional Medical Center, said that 4 people were brought to their hospital and 2 other were taken directly to the burn unit.
According to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department the explosion took place at a shooting range employed by law enforcement. Fresno is placed approximately 300 km (190 miles) southeast of San Francisco.
California Public Utilities Commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper declared:
“The CPUC will conduct a full investigation of the explosion and has already coordinated with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”
Representatives of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said that the utility was examining as well.
Image Source: Reuters