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Officials: Equipment Failure May Have Sparked Fire At Drilling Site

NORTH STRABANE TOWNSHIP (KDKA) -- An equipment malfunction may have sparked a large fire at a gas drilling location in Washington County on Wednesday evening.

The fire broke out after 5 p.m. at the Jeffries drilling site in the 200-block of Ross Road in North Strabane Township.

Officials with Range Resources say it was not a well that caught fire; instead, it was an equipment failure on a piece of machinery that discharged some engine oil. That's what caught fire along with some plastic liners used for environmental prevention that were on the ground at the location.

"That piece of equipment ruptured. There was a failure and it discharged some of that lubricant. That ignited and caught fire at the location," said Matt Pitzarella, of Range Resources. "The well itself was not on fire and not a cause of concern.

"The hydraulic fluid, once it ignited, it fell down on... we have spill prevention. There's plastic liner at bottoms of all of these locations to protect against spills," Pitzarella added.

Heavy flames were seen at the scene and large plumes of black smoke rose over the area.

Joe Waldrop lives on a hill overlooking the site. He called 911 once he realized what had happened.

"As I continued to listen and looked out the back window, we saw all this black smoke, we heard numerous booms after that, and we went back and the whole well was like engulfed in flames," said Waldrop.

Range Resources says they are working with regulators and first responders to investigate the fire.

In their statement, Range Resources went on to say, "These investigations can take weeks or months in some instances to fully recognize what exactly occurred. Importantly, we have trained crews to manage these situations and have prepared for these unfortunate incidents with area first responders over the years."

There were no reports of any injuries.

Three homes are within a half mile radius of the site, but no one had to be evacuated.

"They just said everyone roll up your windows or go inside; we don't want you guys to breathe it in," saisd Rachel Rettinger, a neighbor.

Crews managed to put the fire out by 6:15 p.m.

Range Resources officials say they used specialty foam, used to extinguish oil and grease fires, to put out the blaze.

Officials also say they'll be reaching out to neighbors to make sure everyone is okay and any questions are answered.

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