Gas Well Catches On Fire, Officials Suspect Foul Play - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/3/05-Arp

Gas Well Catches On Fire, Officials Suspect Foul Play

A natural gas well bursts into flame and investigators suspect foul play.  It happened in Smith County around 9:20 PM Wednesday night in the town of Arp, near County Roads 2107 and 2100.

Shannon Williamson heard a pop and then a hissing noise that grew louder and louder. So she went outside to investigate.

"I started walking towards the back here," Shannon said, "calling my horses up and next thing I knew there was fire everywhere."

It was a gas well on fire. Flames rose up to 75 feet in the air.

"I got my husband to call 911 and then ran in, got my jacket, ran back out and then got all my horses in to the furthest pasture away that I could," Shannon said.

The flames burned out Wednesday night. No one was injured and no animals were hurt.
Investigators said Thursday they believed this was no accident. A valve, found left open, is thought to be the source of the leak.

"Valves don't un-turn themselves," said Marilyn Wilson, Assistant Fire Marshal for Smith County.

Wilson suspected vandals snuck on to the property after workers Wednesday last night.

"We know that the last workers on location were here at 7:45 last night," Wilson said. "The (911) call came in at 9:25. So actually it hadn't even been quite 2 hours since they had been gone and they shut down 3 valves when they left here last night. So as far as they were concerned the well was secure when they left."

Workers for Southwestern Energy were back on the scene to investigate Thursday afternoon.
Fire officials said with the gas in the air it didn't take much of a spark to ignite the leak. Marilyn Wilson said despite the gas and fire, the surrounding area was never in immediate danger and there was no need to evacuate.

"When there is a fire we know that it's burning off gas and the only thing you can do is sort of watch it as it happens."

Over the next few days officials will continue to search for clues, hoping to find an answer to what or who is responsible for this fire. Southwestern Energy officials said they will wait for the results of the investigation before making any decisions about security around the well. A pump, storage facility and part of the rig were damaged in the fire.

The company says they hope to make immediate repairs and have the well up and running again in just a matter of days.

Maya Golden reporting, mgolden@kltv.com

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