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DEP Set To Investigate After Gas Well Fire In Avella

AVELLA (KDKA) -- Smoke billowed and flames burned for about three hours Wednesday night following the sounds of a large explosion at the site of a natural gas well in Washington County.

It was around 6:20 p.m. when people in the Avella area of Washington County in Independence Township were startled. First by what sounded like a large explosion, and then flames and smoke shooting high into the night sky.

"I was in the house eating dinner and I just heard a big explosion, the whole house rattled and I had no idea what it was," said Katie Leeper, a neighbor. "[I] came outside and saw the fire over there."

The explosion and fire involved natural gas liquid storage tanks situated on private property used in the extraction of natural gas from beneath the earth's surface.

"It was natural gas liquids in a storage tank. It's a natural substance that comes up out of the ground. It's collected in the tanks, separated from the gas stream, but I don't have any addition information in regards to that," said Stacey Brodak, of Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC.

A spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection says the three contractors who were injured were in the final phase of their particular operation.

There is no word on their conditions, but it is believed that they were taken to Pittsburgh-area hospitals for treatment of burns.

Neighbors say the sound was unmistakable.

"All you heard was an explosion. I knew something happened because after you heard the explosion, you heard the noise from the flairs," said Paul Kanish, another neighbor. "So when I walked around the other side of my house, I seen the flairs were going down, and then all you seen was this big ball of fire burning up there on the hill."

Because of the remote location of the gas well, firefighters used tankers to bring in water to help extinguish the flames. It took about three hours to put the fire out.

Officials say volunteers from as many as two dozen departments from Washington County as well as from West Virginia were at the scene.

Authorities say no evacuations were necessary for the nearby area.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is set to open an investigation into what caused the fire on Thursday.

Fire crews remained on scene late Wednesday, putting water on the tanks to keep them cool.

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