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California gas pipe explosion injures 12

23 April 2015

Twelve people were injured and six were being treated for critical or serious injuries at a Fresno, California, hospital after a PG&E Corp. natural gas pipeline ruptured and ignited a fire on April 17. The explosion happened after workers not affiliated with PG&E struck a 12 inch gas line with a backhoe. Some of the injured were inmates from Fresno County Jail. 

Stock image
Stock image

A section of highway was shut down after the explosion, according to the County Sheriff's Office.

The explosion was at the Fresno County Sheriff's gun range where county employees and an inmate work team were building a dirt berm to confine gunfire to the range. The California Public Utilities Commission is investigating the explosion in cooperation with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

PG&E said it responded quickly after the pipeline was struck. The company detected a slight change in pressure at 2:29 pm, and was first notified about the incident at 2:36 pm. Actions to shut off gas began before 3 pm, and the flow of gas to the pipeline was shut at 3:20 pm. Because of the remaining gas in the line, the flames were exhausted at 3:56 pm.

PG&E said in a statement: “Our primary concern is always the safety of the public and our employees. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured. As we continue to investigate this incident, we remind all of our customers of the importance of calling 811 before they do any type of digging project. Digging into gas pipelines can have serious safety consequences.”

PG&E's natural-gas operations have been under scrutiny since a PG&E pipeline blast killed eight people in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno. National Transportation Safety Board investigators blamed faulty safety practices by PG&E and lax oversight by state regulators for the blast.

Some of the injured inmates later said they would seek damages against the County and PG&E.

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