St. Charles Parish residents allowed to return after pipeline fire

UPDATE: Phillips 66 pipeline explosion

(WVUE) - St. Charles Parish officials are allowing evacuated residents to return to their homes after a Thursday night Phillips 66 pipeline fire.

Officials said a perimeter was set up to monitor air quality in the area. There are currently no readings showing anything harmful.

"We are looking at ways to clamp the line to reduce burn-off," said Phillips spokesman Todd Denton.

Residents said they heard as many as six booms during an explosion which occurred during what Phillips officials call a routine maintenance operation.

"We heard a boom. I thought it was a train and then we heard a big loud boom again," said Louise Young, who was evacuated from her home.

Officials said the fire is going down and that pressure is falling in the pipeline.

The large fire near Paradis injured six workers and left one unaccounted for. Highway 90 and Highway 631 were closed in both directions but have since reopened. The explosion happened just before 6:30 p.m.

The six workers were from two companies - three from Phillips Petroleum and three from Blanchard Contractors. They were cleaning the 20-inch line when a valve or gasket failed, according to St. Bernard Sheriff Greg Champagne said.

One of the injured workers remains hospitalized. Officials have yet to identify the employee who was missing after the explosion.

Denton said this is the first explosion he's had to deal with in his five years with the company.

"This is a first for me. We're concerned with those impacted for their families, and we're working with those families," he said.

The Edward A. Dufresne Community Center in Luling served as a shelter. A total of 60 homes were evacuated.

Champagne said when the fire first broke out, it was 30-40 feet wide and just as high. He said it could burn for days, and that the safest course of action was to let it burn itself out.

"Number one, it's too hot to get near," he said. "It is a large blowtorch at this point. It is burning clean, but it is not safe to go near it."

The sheriff said the liquid in the line was a highly volatile byproduct of natural gas production.

Phillips set up a community response line. The number is 1-800-766-6362.

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