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Natural gas well fire forces evacuations in Roosevelt

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22 2013 11:50 a.m. MST

Flames erupt from a drilling rig at an oil and natural gas well north of Roosevelt on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. Crews reported a blowout at the well shortly after midnight. The escaping gases ignited just before 7 a.m., according to the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret News

ROOSEVELT — A fire burning at an oil well north of Roosevelt could take some time to extinguish.

"I can't speculate how long this will last, but we're working on it, I can tell you that," said David Klaassen of Devon Energy, which operates the well. "Fires at rig sites are a rare occurrence."

The Duchesne County Sheriff's Office, in a statement released late Tuesday, said it could take "up to a week or longer to bring things back to normal operations" at the well.

Crews working on a drilling rig owned by Frontier Drilling notified authorities shortly after midnight Tuesday that the well they had recently completed had experienced a gas blowout — a high-pressure release of oil and natural gas from the well, according to Duchesne County Undersheriff David Boren.

Sheriff's deputies and Roosevelt firefighters spent several hours at the scene while workers tried to regain control of the well. But just before 7 a.m., something ignited the fumes, setting off a blaze that sent towers of smoke and flames into the sky.

"We're grateful nobody was hurt. That's the most important thing," Klaassen said.

Three homes along North Crescent Road near 2000 North were evacuated as a precaution, Boren said. The residents of those homes were offered motel rooms and meals at the expense of the companies.

"We have contingency plans in place for these types of events," Klaassen said. Part of that plan includes calling in well-control specialists who are monitoring the fire and working to bring it under control. The company is also assessing any environmental impact.

Calls by the Deseret News to Frontier Drilling were returned Tuesday.

Deputies manned roadblocks set up in a half-mile radius of the fire, shutting down access to the area.

Joe Taylor, who lives just outside the evacuation zone, stood in the driveway of his home with his grandson Tuesday and watched the fire burn.

"We're kind of watching it, figuring if they start getting explosions or stuff like that, we'll get — I've got grandkids here — we'll get them out of here," he said.

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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