Massive Natural Gas Explosion in Forest County Leads to Evacuation

HICKORY TWP., Pa. (EYT) – There were no injuries reported in a massive natural gas fire at a compressor station in Forest County on Tuesday morning.

Forest County Sheriff Robert Wolfgang said that the fire originated at a compressor station owned by Catalyst Energy of Clarendon, Pa.

“If the propane tank had exploded, it could have been pretty bad,” Wolfgang said. “But, everything worked as it should have, and it burned itself off.”

The tank could hold up to 30,000 gallons of propane, but Wolfgang said the release valves on the tank worked as it should have to prevent an explosion.

“It burned itself off. Other fuel companies, including National Fuel Gas, responded to the area to shut their lines down to prevent any further problems,” Wolfgang said. “They initially wouldn’t allow the fire companies to go up in there, but after the fire had died down, they did and foam was used to put out the rest of it.”

Around 10:00 a.m., residents were asked to evacuate a 4-mile radius near Queens Road, just south of Kelly Hill Road, according to a statement issued by Warren County Public Safety.

“The evacuation went well. Everyone left on their own,” Wolfgang said. “It is a very rural area, and there were about 8 to 10 people that live in the area.”

Dan Tobin, Director of Marketing and Communications for American Red Cross Western Pennsylvania Region, confirmed around 2:00 p.m. that residents had been notified that it was safe to return to their homes.

During the evacuation, American Red Cross set up a temporary reception center at the Tidioute Fire Hall (Warren County) for those who evacuated their homes.

The evacuation was voluntary and residents were not required to leave.

Sheriff Wolfgang said that the response to the scene was good as Forest County EMA Director Bob Snyder was there to assist, and public works crews from Hickory and Limestone townships put cinders on the roads to help fire company trucks navigate the icy roads that resulted from snow and ice that fell during the morning and early afternoon.

Volunteer fire companies from West Hickory, Tionesta, and Tidioute responded to the scene to help put out the remainder of the fire and make sure everything was safe.

“The back roads that lead into where it happened were pretty bad, pretty icy and the township trucks did a good job getting the cinders down so the fire trucks could get in there,” Wolfgang said.

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