Gas explosions

…and fracking fires


Emergency situation – Thurs Sept 13, 2018
2018-09-13 North Shore fires

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon said that night: “You can’t even see the sky.” He was in Lawrence, where 20-25 homes were burning simultaneously.

Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said: “It looked like Armageddon, it really did. There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover.” –


June 15, 2018 – A natural gas pipeline exploded in a rural area in central Kansas near the town of Hesston. Flames shot upward 75 feet.

Dec. 31, 2017 – In local Boston news, a gas main caught fire in Roslindale and remained burning as of the next day. The Patch reported: “The gas main is not being shut off because it would mean costing heat to thousands in dangerously cold conditions.”

Nov. 6, 2016 – North-central Oklahoma had a 5.0 magnitude earthquake. In 2008, Oklahoma saw only 2 earthquakes of at least magnitude 3.0; last year, there were 889. Some suspect that this unusual activity is caused by fracking. Bill Ellsworth, a geophysics professor at Stanford University and former USGS seismologist: “It’s clear these earthquakes are being facilitated by these waste-water wells.”

Oct. 31, 2016: A track hoe machine struck a gasoline pipeline in northern Alabama, causing an explosion that killed one worker and injured a half-dozen others. The explosion caused two wildfires that burned 31 acres; forestry workers had to build a 75-foot-long earthen dam to contain it. The pipeline, which supplies gasoline to millions of people, was shut down for six days. The operator is Colonial Pipeline based in Alpharetta, Ga.

Aug. 10, 2016: An apartment building in Silver Spring, Maryland was destroyed by an explosion. The natural gas utility was served by Washington Gas.

July 11, 2016: A massive fire broke out at a fracking site owned by WPX Energy in San Juan County, New Mexico. All 36 oil tanks on site caught fire. The fires were allowed to burn themselves out. 55 local residents were evacuated from their homes.

April 29, 2016: A 36-inch diameter pipeline owned by Spectra Energy exploded in Salem Township, Pa. One person was injured and one house was completely destroyed.

On June 15, 2015, a natural gas pipeline ruptured in Texas, causing a fire visible for 20 miles (Sky UK).

On March 26, 2015, a gas explosion in Manhattan’s East Village caused a seven-alarm fire and the collapse of three apartment buildings, killing two people and injuring more than 20. (CNN photos) (CNN video)

On Jan. 26, 2015, a pipeline exploded in rural West Virginia, “sending flames hundreds of feet into the air” (WTRF 7 News).

“Fire at Chartiers gas meter station causes evacuations,” by Emily Petsko, Observer-Reporter, Dec. 25, 2014.

Eight people died when a building collapsed in East Harlem, New York City on March 12, 2014. Con Ed was found to have violated state safety regulations and agreed to pay $153 million.

Five people died in a gas explosion that affected a block of houses in Allentown, Pennsylvania on Feb. 9, 2011. “The number of deaths here was the most since San Bruno,” according to the New York Times.

San Bruno, Calif.

In 2010, leaks from an underground natural gas pipe network erupted into a massive fire that destroyed an entire neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif.

A presentation on Jan. 18, 2012 at the Northeast Corrosion Conference (Springfield, Mass.) was dedicated to “San Bruno, CA: Lessons Learned & Recent Legislation” (PDF).


While these are among the most dramatic gas explosions, they are not isolated incidents. In the past decade, there have been hundreds of explosions like these.

As many West Roxbury residents have only recently learned, we now face a danger on that or an even greater scale. One of the major concerns was the metering and regulation station that was built across the street from an active, blasting quarry. If the above-ground station or the underground pipeline were damaged by industrial blasting, the resulting explosion would be catastrophic. Many residents are concerned about the personal safety of their families in the event of explosion and about the potential impact to their property values even if there is not an explosion because of perceived risk.

More information on safety:

Mayors’ Council on Pipeline Safety, Philadelphia, May 2015

U.S. TSA’s “Pipeline Threat Assessment” (PDF), Jan 2011

Wikipedia: List of pipeline accidents

The pressure is climbing…

  • 1/4 (one-quarter) psi: The pressure of gas inside your home.
  • 20-30 psi: The pressure in the existing pipelines under our neighborhood streets. This is sufficient for local distribution.
  • 400 psi: The pressure in the pipeline that infamously exploded in San Bruno, Calif. in 2010. The enormous column of fire killed eight people, injured 66 people, destroyed 35 homes, and severely damaged an additional 17 homes.
  • 750 psi: The pressure in the pipeline that Spectra Energy put under the street in West Roxbury. What would happen if it exploded?

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