One killed, three hospitalized in oil tank battery explosion north of Firestone
May 25, 2017
Editor's note: This story has been updated. For the latest, click here.
One person died and three people were taken to the hospital — at least one with serious injuries — after an oil tank battery exploded Thursday afternoon north of Firestone.
According to a news release from Cpl. Matt Turner of the Weld County Sheriff's office, deputies arrived on the scene in Mead, near Colo. 66 and Weld County Road 13, which is called Colorado Boulevard in that area, about 3:15 p.m., when they found the battery engulfed in flame. Turner said an investigation of the scene revealed the explosion was the result of an industrial accident that occurred while workers were performing maintenance on the battery.
Three workers were taken to nearby hospitals for further medical attention. Two went to the burn unit at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley. The third patient was taken to Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. Their condition was not immediately known, however, Mead's Mountain View Fire Protection District Chief Roger Rademacher said at least one of those taken to NCMC was in serious condition. He also said firefighters also responded to the blaze, and by 4:20 p.m., he said crews had extinguished the flames. He added they remained on scene searching for further hazards.
In the release, Turner said the sheriff's office, Mountain View Fire and Anadarko officials searched the site together after the blaze was extinguished. That's when they discovered the deceased victim.
Turner declined to release the name of the victim, saying that information would come from the Weld County Coroner's Office once it had completed its administrative process and investigation.
The site is owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., a company recently in the public eye in the wake of a Firestone house explosion this past month linked to one of its wells. The April 17 tragedy killed two people and severely injured a third.
In that incident, investigators determined a severed 1-inch gas flow line was responsible for leaking methane into the basement of the home that exploded. The flow line was considered abandoned so officials do not know why it was still connected to a well head 178 feet away from the home with the valve in the "on" position.
Thursday's tank battery explosion, which was about 3 ½ miles north of the site of the April 17 explosion, came just hours after news broke that another pocket of methane had been discovered in the Firestone neighborhood — the Oak Meadows subdivision — where the home exploded, according to Tribune media partners Denver7 and the Denver Post.
Anadarko workers spent Thursday venting the gas found underneath Oak Meadows Boulevard in Firestone. State officials said homeowners in the area were not in danger.
The pocket of gas was several hundred feet away from any homes, but the gas concentrations were higher than those found in the soil near the home that exploded, according to maps provided to the Post by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
COGCC spokesman Todd Hartman told the Post the initial investigation indicates a flow line that terminated south of the home that exploded April 17 branched off a flow line headed west toward Oak Meadows Boulevard. The western end, he said, may have been cut when a sewer line was installed at Oak Meadows Boulevard. However, no final determination has yet been made, he said.
"During precautionary soil sampling, a subsurface area was identified near Oak Meadows Boulevard where methane was detected, and we have taken steps to safely disperse the gas," Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen said. "The above-ground concentrations are below levels of concern, testing has confirmed the area is isolated near the road, and the levels in the soil are dissipating as a result of the remediation activities."
It was not immediately clear whether there was any connection between the two explosions.
Anadarko spokeswoman Helen Wells issued a statement late Thursday that confirmed the details of the tank battery explosion and stated more information would be released when it became available. The statement, however, did not offer any information about the cause or the status of the investigation. She did not immediately return a phone call seeking additional information.
The fire comes the day after Anadarko announced to area homeowners it would permanently shut down three oil and gas wells near the explosion site. Prior to that announcement, though, the company had shut in 3,000 older, vertical wells for inspections and repair.
Still, homeowners this past week filed a lawsuit against Anadarko and Noble Energy Inc., the well's previous operator, according to the Denver Post. They also named the neighborhood's developers and builders as defendants in the case.