Work Crews Monitor Blast Site - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

08/12/05 - Lufkin

Work Crews Monitor Blast Site

by Ramonica R. Jones

Things were a lot calmer on Highway 69 in Lufkin Friday. You could hardly tell it was the scene of a huge fire just hours earlier.

The fire started after a construction worker using a bulldozer to clear land hit a 10-inch crude oil pipeline. The line exploded, setting several trees and a house on fire.

There are several possible explanations for what could've gone wrong.

Hudson volunteer firefighter, Brian Smith, said the oil could've ignited from "either a spark from the bulldozer and the metal line, or exhaust."

Not knowing what's feeding a fire is always a challenge for firefighters; that's the situation they faced Thursday after arriving on the scene.

"We used a lot of foam, [we] didn't want to use water," Smith said. "Foam adheres to anything a little better and holds the water in place; it doesn't displace the fumes as bad [and there's] less steam."

The construction worker who hit the pipe line was the only person hurt in the explosion. He had surgery Friday morning in a Houston area hospital.

Lynn Chance has second and third degree burns on his back. Chance lives in Wells where he does contract work for a construction company there.

His family says he's doing okay.

Hundreds of people had to leave their homes and businesses in Lufkin after Thursday's explosion, but instead of going from door to door to spread the word of an evacuation, authorities used a newer method of notification.

The First Call Alert System lets rescue workers call hundreds of people simultaneously to warn them of danger. Thursday, more than 200 residents were notified in just over 10 minutes.

Keith Bickley of the Lufkin Police Department said, "We make one initial call to the company and we give them perimeters of where we want the phone calls to be made, and then over just a period of minutes or seconds, they push out a recorded call to the residents."

The Lufkin Police Department got the First Call system three years ago. Firefighters, county, and city officials also use it to quickly notify residents about emergencies.

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