MILFORD (CBS 11 NEWS) - Milford Residents will be allowed to briefly return to their homes on Friday, as crews continue to secure the area surrounding the site where a natural gas pipeline caught fire and exploded Thursday morning.
Nearly the entire North Texas town, with a population of about 700, was evacuated after Thursday's explosion and as of Friday morning, no one had been allowed to return home. However, Ellis County Sheriff's deputies planned to escort residents to their homes in ten-minute intervals throughout the day on Friday, to retrieve medicine, pets and any other necessities. Residents have been told they should expect to spend another night away from their homes as crews work to secure the explosion site.
Chevron owns the blown pipeline, and another larger transmission line, located just a few feet away. Crews are set up on the east and west sides of the larger line, about a mile away from the blast site. They are expected to secure the site and shut off the flow of gas to the larger line sometime Friday afternoon, according to Jim Barnum, Chevron's General Manager of Operations.
The cause of the explosion is still unknown, according to the assistant fire marshal. Chevron has not started to investigate the cause of the explosion; instead Barnum said the company is focused on safety at this time. A five-person crew was doing excavation work on the pipeline before the explosion. Barnum says the five-person construction crew, which was doing excavation work at the site before the fire, was able to evacuate the area before the explosion. Barnum did not say how the workers left the scene. Chopper 11 video showed several abandoned automobiles near the site as the fire burned.
Meanwhile, evacuated Milford residents plan for another night away from their homes. The American Red Cross set up a temporary shelter at Italy High School, and according to spokesperson Anita Foster, 35 people registered to stay at the high school. The shelter will be open until the evacuation order is lifted. Chevron has also set up a claims process for people forced to evacuate. The company hotline is 855-276-1272.
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