SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — At least five homes went up in flames Tuesday afternoon and a badly burned section of Interstate 77 in West Virginia was closed after a natural gas line exploded in an hour-long inferno.
No injuries were immediately reported, but firefighters had just begun to reach damaged structures late in the afternoon after the intense flames kept them at bay for several hours.
Several people were treated for smoke inhalation, and a shelter was set up at Sissonville High School, where Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin planned a late-afternoon press conference
State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said a slight risk of a secondary explosion remained, but people were told to stay inside their homes rather than evacuate. The explosion occurred near Sissonville just before 1 p.m. in a 20-inch transmission line owned by NiSource Inc., parent of Columbia Gas.
He got in his car and drove closer, seeing fire that stretched as high as the hilltops.
"The flames were so high, they were so massive," he said. "I could only imagine what had happened"
Carper said the flames spanned about a quarter of a mile and ran through a culvert under the interstate.
"It actually cooked the interstate," he said. "It looks like a tar pit."