Natural gas fire evacuates homes in northeast Wichita

Construction crews working near 13th and Oliver in northeast Wichita struck a gas line, causing an explosion and fire. Several homes were evacuated. Mar. 3, 2013 (Photo: Raoul Cortez)

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WICHITA, Kansas — Construction crews were working in northeast Wichita when they pierced a natural gas line sending flames shooting into the sky for most of Saturday afternoon.

Neighbors reported hearing a loud explosion and seeing construction workers run to safety.

A massive fire burning could be seen from at least half a mile away Saturday morning.

“Unbelievable,” said Anthony Kirkendall, neighbor. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”

The fire burned for almost 3 hours near 13th and Fountain just west of Oliver.

“I can’t confirm if it was an explosion or not, ” said Captain Mike Crosby, Wichita Fire Department. “It was originally reported as a house fire and on initial arriving crews found the large volume fire in the street.”

Up to 20 construction workers were on site when they accidently ruptured a gas line causing a massive blaze to shoot to the sky.

“I got my kids out and got out,” said Julie Hurley.

Several homes within a block from the fire were forced to evacuate.

The Wichita Fire Department provided a rehab bus for residents to keep warm while gas crews work to identify the problem.

A problem that scared many residents like Julie Hurley.

“We just moved in a couple of months ago and we weren’t expecting something like this to happen so the thought of my animals being in there scares me,” said Hurley. “The fact that we were right there and I had my kids in the house wasn’t any better.”

Firefighters were able to contain the fire preventing it from spreading to nearby homes.

“One of the primary concerns was the radiant heat from the fire getting tot he house to the north,” said Crosby. “So what we did was set up a perimeter to put in the water curtains to cool the homes just in case.”

Gas crews found the correct valve and were able to shut off the gas leak.

Residents were given the all clear by officials and were allowed back into their homes.


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