BREAKING: Pipeline blast evacuations could last 36 hours
Phil Banker, [email protected]
Lt. James Saulter of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office said Milford residents displaced by the this morning’s liquefied petroleum gas pipeline explosion will have to stay away from their homes for anywhere between 24 and 36 hours.
Saulter said firefighters with Chevron have taken the lead on the scene, making sure the remaining gas burns itself out safely. He said as investigators continue looking into the cause of the blast, the evacuation zone has expanded to three miles.
“They’re still doing some investigation,” Saulter said. “Part of the problem is that there is a 14-inch pipe running alongside the pipe that exploded this morning, and they’re trying to make sure that one is not going to explode.”
Milford ISD students were evacuated to the Italy ISD gymnasium, where other Milford citizens have sought refuge. Saulter said the Red Cross has set up a mobile kitchen at the gym, and the Ellis County Victim’s Relief Ministry and the Ellis County Baptist Men are also serving to the needs of evacuees.
Tom Hemrick, Hill County Emergency Management Coordinator, said the explosion occurred on a 10- inch distribution pipeline near FM 308 less than a mile from State Highway 77.
Firefighters from Milford, Italy, Forreston and Emergency Services District No. 6 responded to the explosion shortly after 9:30 a.m., with Avalon firefighters later responding in support.
Ennis Fire Chief Jeff Aycock and two Ennis firefighters took the Ennis Fire Department’s mobile command center in response to the incident.
Hemrick said pipeline workers accidentally drilled a hole into a 10-inch gas distribution pipeline causing the pipeline to rupture.
Hemrick said no injuries have been reported at this time, and no structures were damaged by the explosion.
In a news release, Chevron said it initiated its emergency response procedures after the explosion.
“Chevron’s primary concern at this point is to ensure the safety of its employees and the surrounding community,” the statement read.
Michelle Harris lives just outside the initial evacuation zone, and waited with her family at the Texas Best Smokehouse in Italy to learn if she could go home.
“We’re just outside of it, but we have an Exxon Mobile line near our home. We’re waiting to see if we can go home,” Harris said.
She said this is the first time she’s ever been displaced by such an incident.
“It really makes you wonder if you want to be that close to the pipeline,” she said.
Saulter said the incident occurred during “bedding” work done near the pipeline. He said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was contacted about the explosion, though he hasn’t seen them on scene yet.
He said the flight restriction over the site of the pipeline is still in effect.
The city of Milford is home to 729 residents, according to the 2012 United States Census. Milford ISD’s website says the district has over 200 students.