Operator Nicks Clearly Marked Gas Line, Sparking Fiery Explosion

April 28, 2015

A heavy equipment operator nicked a gas line, which was marked by several poles, igniting an explosion and fireball in Fresno, Calif., near Highway 99.

The ruptured line was owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), whose operations have been under scrutiny for a deadly explosion in San Francisco that killed eight people in 2010, reports The Fresno Bee.

PG&E said it routinely guided construction workers around gas and electric lines, but was never notified that Fresno County planned to dig near the transmission line.

The explosion erupted at 2:28 p.m. Friday at a gun range, just east of the Highway 99 bridge over the San Joaquin River. Several deputies and a group of inmates who were picking up shell casings were at the range when the explosion occurred.

Thirteen people were injured, including the operator, and six remain in a hospital burn unit.

PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles said the explosion took place between two of the several orange-and-white poles marking where the gas line is.

The blast prompted authorities to shut down northbound Highway 99 for several hours, and it caused extensive damage to 400 feet of Union Pacific’s nearby railroad track, which will have to be replaced. 

Source: The Fresno Bee