Broken gas line blazes in Basalt |

Broken gas line blazes in Basalt

A blaze that resulted from the rupture of a natural gas line in the Willits subdivision Monday morning “looked spectacular, but posed little risk,” according to Basalt Fire Chief Steve Howard.

A contractor using a track hoe was installing a dry well to improve drainage in the area when a four-inch natural gas line was hit, according to Howard. The leaking gas was accidentally ignited by a worker who was using a propane-fueled weed burner to melt ice on a sidewalk as part of the dry well work.

That man, whose name wasn’t released, was caught in a small fireball but believed to have suffered only minor injuries, said Howard. The man was taken to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs for treatment and was possibly going to be kept overnight for observation.

The track hoe operator wasn’t injured, according to Howard.

The fire produced an interesting sight for nearly two hours. Flames danced above the track hoe while a steady stream of water from a ladder truck was sprayed onto the machine to keep it cool and prevent its fuel tank from exploding.

The scene was visible from Highway 82 and parts of Willits Lane. The angle sometimes made it appear that the fire was next to new homes in the area, but there wasn’t a danger of it spreading, Howard said.

Firefighters intentionally avoided putting out the fire because they wanted to make sure the source was shut off, Howard explained. The line was ruptured at a three-way junction, requiring K N Energy to dig three new holes and clamp the lines feeding the fire.

The fire call came in at 10:21 a.m. and Basalt Fire-Rescue was on the scene four minutes later. The fire bled out by 12:10 p.m.

Once the fire was out, the track hoe was operational, but its boom was severely damaged.

Basalt Fire-Rescue responded with the ladder truck, a rescue vehicle, an ambulance and a crew of 11. They were assisted by the Basalt Police Department and Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. A fire engine from Carbondale was briefly placed on standby.

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