BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – A ruptured natural gas line exploded on Friday in rural Central California, sending flames 200 feet into the air, killing one person and injuring two others before it was shut down, authorities said.
The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. line was cut by someone using heavy equipment in a farm field south of town around 3:30 p.m., Kern County fire Capt. Tom Ellison said. The pipeline was about 12 feet underground when it was struck, but officials said that it is unclear what kind of work was being doing.
Video from drivers on nearby roads showed two enormous horns of fire flaring into the sky.
The fire destroyed a nearby home, and Ellison said that the two people who sustained injuries were from the home. A child was also in the home, but not injured, Ellison said, adding that he could see the flames responding to the call from six miles away.
"The fire burned so intensely," he said. "Everything was gone. It was black."
The operator of the heavy equipment died from injuries, Ellison said.
The two injured people received second- and third-degree burns over 20 to 30 percent of their bodies, Hall Ambulance told KGET-TV.
"My husband was driving home from work. He actually had to turn around because he could feel the heat from the fire," Bakersfield resident Kristin Morgan told the station.
The gas line was quickly shut down and the fire was out by 4:30 p.m., said PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith. The line was last inspected between Nov. 10 and 12, Smith said. PG&E had been notified sometime before of work near the pipeline, but Smith said that work notice had expired on Nov. 5. There was no current work notice, he said.
No PG&E employees were involved in work that caused the fire, said Smith adding that no PG&E employees were injured.