ERIE – A gas line exploded late Monday night near Erie, causing a glow in the sky that could be seen 40 miles away. No one was hurt.
The blast happened shortly after 11 p.m. in a cornfield near Albany Road, just north of Interstate 88. Authorities evacuated dozens of residents within a mile of the fire, allowing them to return a few hours later.
The explosion created a 15-foot deep hole that was about 20 feet wide and 40 feet long, Erie Fire Chief Doug Rutledge said. For a while, the flames were as high as 250 feet.
"It had a roar like a jet engine. It was something else," Rutledge said.
In their response, authorities called at least a couple of gas line companies before determining that Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners owned the interstate line. The company responded shortly after.
Firefighters arrived at the site of the fire, but let the gas company handle the situation, as is procedure, Rutledge said. As the company shut off valves, he said, the blaze dwindled.
The firefighters were on hand in case the fire spread. It didn't.
Authorities went door to door asking residents to evacuate their homes, with the Erie Fire Department inviting them to the station; about three dozen residents showed up. As dawn approached, residents were allowed back.
The firefighters left about that time, too.
"Once the company determined it was safe and the fire was under control, they released us," Rutledge said.
The line was carrying a combination of ethane and propane for a petrochemical customer in Morris, southwest of Chicago, according to the company.
The explosion's cause is under investigation.
Rick Rainey, a spokesman for Enterprise Products, said his company was working on determining the cause and bringing the line back into service. Meanwhile, he said, another system is serving the petrochemical customer in Morris.
The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulates interstate gas lines. The agency said it was beginning its investigation, with an inspector en route to the site.
"Pipeline failure investigations include evaluating whether the operator involved is in full compliance with federal pipeline safety regulations," spokeswoman Jeannie Layson said in an email.