The Lower Valley Fire Protection District of Grand Junction was the first on the scene.
“We got called for a building that had exploded with multiple injuries,” said LVFPD Lt. Beau Edic. “The parties actually removed themselves and drove to I-70, and we life-flighted both of them. They did have very significant injuries from the blast.”
The explosion caused a fire and Moab Valley Fire District and other agencies also responded. The fire from the explosion was still burning at noon July 28, when the LVFPD left the scene under the control of the MVFD, according to a report from the Grand Junction Sentinel. “It’s a dangerous situation up there with everything they’ve got going,” Edic said. “They’ve got air monitoring and everything, but they have to let it burn down before they can do any kind of suppression, so it’s a lengthy process, he said on Saturday.”
Grand County Sheriff’s Deputy Jamison Wiggins told The Sentinel that little is known about how the explosion occurred, but said it was at a collection facility at or near the San Arroyo Gas Plant, which provides compression for natural gas from regional pipelines. He added that an emergency valve to the facility was immediately shut off to prevent the fire from burning more gas or spreading to other parts of the plant.
The fire continued to burn until 2:15 p.m. July 28, according to MVFD Chief Phillip Mosher. “It was a metal building so there was no structural fire,” Mosher said. MVFD used approximately 2,000 gallons of water to cool the building so that investigators could enter Saturday afternoon.
The explosion occurred in a building involved in separating carbon dioxide from gas to make it ready to be piped, the Sentinel reported. A sign on the gate of the site said Rockies Standard Oil Co., and as far as investigators are aware, the building belongs to that company.
The Grand Couny Sheriff’s Office and the State Fire Marshal are now conducting an investigation into the cause of the fire. As of Wednesday, the investigators were waiting for the burn victims to be able to tell their story, which will hopefully shed light on the cause of the fire, the sheriff’s office said.
An analysis of oil and gas infrastructure conducted by the Bureau of Land Management’s Moab field office in 2005 found that the pipelines had been in place for 30 to 40 years and that it was “likely that the equipment would need to be repaired or replaced during the next 15 years,” according to the Sentinel. It is unknown if such repairs or replacements occurred. The BLM said that the majority of natural gas produced from the fields in the nearby Book Cliffs is processed through the plant.