HELENA, Alabama– AL.com reports fire departments from across the Birmingham area responded to a gas line explosion in Shelby County that severely injured several people this afternoon.
According to public safety radio reports, seven people were severely burned. A UAB Hospital spokesman this afternoon confirmed three patients were already at UAB, three more were coming by ambulance, and one more was coming by air.
And, with a severe drought caused by weeks without rain, much of central Alabama has been plagued by multiple wildfires, forcing crews to try and keep the blaze from spreading across the landscape.
Two wildfires caused by the explosion burned 31 acres of land, she said.
Homes around the blast scene were evacuated, and Capt. Jeff Hartley of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said it wasn’t clear when people might be able to return home.
“There’s a large plume of smoke; there’s a large fire. We’re not sure exactly how it started or what caused it,” he said.
SEPTEMBER PIPELINE LEAK
On the morning of Sept. 9, an inspector with the Alabama Surface Mining Commission was performing a routine monthly check of an old coal mine in Shelby County when he noticed “a strong odor of gasoline” as well as a sheen on the surface of one of the retention ponds.
The gasoline he was smelling came from Colonial Pipeline’s Line 1, an underground pipeline three feet in diameter that normally pushes 1.3 million barrels of gasoline per day from refineries in Houston to distribution centers across the Southeast and along the eastern seaboard.
That 36-inch line, built in 1963, has been estimated to supply the east coast of the United States with up to 40 percent of its gasoline supply. Colonial Pipeline initiated a shutdown of Line 1 within 20 minutes of receiving the report about a potential leak.
That section of pipeline remains closed. Eight days later, official estimates climbed to 336,000 gallons of lost gasoline. More than 700 people were working around the clock to dig up the pipe, plug the leak, clean up the old mining property south of Birmingham and restore supply.