A gas leak from a nearby pipeline was the source of the April 17 house explosion in Firestone, CO that killed two people and badly injured a third, Firestone Fire Chief Ted Poszywak said in a press conference today.
The Firestone police and fire and departments worked together with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) on the investigation of the explosion. A 24-year-old well, located 170 feet from the home quickly became part of the probe. The well is one of 3,000 older vertical wells operated by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation in northeastern Colorado. Anadarko temporarily closed them all in the wake of the explosion.
At the news conference today, Chief Poszyak said an abandoned set of flow lines—a 2-inch line and a 1-inch line—excavated at a depth of seven feet were found six feet from the home’s foundation. The lines were abandoned when the tank battery was moved prior to the development of the subdivision, he said. Investigators traced both lines back to the well where the 2-inch line was disconnected and capped, but the 1 -inch line was still connected to the well through a valve that was in the on position until the night of the explosion when it was turned off at the request of first responders.
Fatal House Explosion
Erin and Mark Martinez lived in the home on Twilight Avenue in the Oak Meadows subdivision with their two children. On the day of the explosion, Mark and his brother-in-law, Joseph (Joey) William Irwin III Irwin—a plumber with 20 years of experience and a reputation for his attention to detail—were working on a hot water heater in the basement of the recently constructed home. The explosion killed both men and leveled the home, pinning Erin beneath the rubble as a massive fire raged.
A construction crew working in the area acted quickly to rescue Erin using a forklift to lift a portion of the collapsed house and pull her to safety. She was badly burned and airlifted to a trauma center where she remains in critical condition.
In response to today’s news, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper ordered a statewide review of existing oil and gas operations. “Inspections of existing flowlines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings must occur within 30 days and tested for integrity within 60 days. Lines that have been either abandoned or are not in use must be inspected within 30 days and abandoned under current rules within 60 days,” according to the announcement.
Pritzker Hageman law firm helps get compensation for people who have been injured and families who have lost loved ones in explosions, including a recent $10 million settlement for a client who was severely burned. Our lead lawyers for these cases are Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman, who can be contacted at 1 (888) 377-8900.