BAKERSFIELD, Calif., Nov. 14 (UPI) — A gasline near Bakersfield, Calif., exploded Friday after somebody hit it with a piece of heavy equipment, killing one person and sending three others to the hospital, according to local officials.
Workers for Pacific Gas and Electric, which owns the pipeline, shut off valves on both sides of fire, cutting off gas fueling the flames. Firefighters then let the remaining gas burn off, with the blaze extinguished within about half an hour of the energy company’s workers arriving on scene.
The California Public Utilities Commission ordered the company to set up a 100-foot perimeter, survey for leaks in the the pipeline, and keep staff on scene until the area has been declared safe.
Officials are certain the pipeline was hit, and did not explode due to a leak, based on testing of the pipeline for leaks within the last week.
“A third party, more than likely a farmer, hit the line with a piece of heavy equipment,” Kern County Fire Department Capt. Tom Ellison told the Bakersfield Californian. “The operator of that vehicle was killed.”
Two people in a nearby home destroyed by the explosion were also hospitalized with second- and third-degree burns over 20 to 30 percent of their bodies.
A ticket had been submitted to the company about plans to dig in the area of the pipeline, according to PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith, however it expired Nov. 5, so nothing was expected to be done in the area.
It took four minutes for automatic valves to stop the flow of gas to the ruptured part of the pipe, and just under an hour for gas in the pipe to burn off.