Fire erupts at Marcellus Shale pad in Somerset Township

January 1, 2017
Firefighters from at least 16 companies bring a large fire under control Sunday at the Rice Energy Papa Bear Marcellus Shale natural gas well pad in Somerset Township. - Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

BENTLEYVILLE – A large fire sent a thick black plume of smoke into the sky Sunday at a Marcellus Shale natural gas pad in Somerset Township.

Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner Tim Solobay said the 4 p.m. blaze compromised four pumper trucks used in the well fracturing process at Rice Energy’s Papa Bear site at 78 Lusk Road.

“They had it under control within an hour,” said Solobay, who responded to the fire.

He said the fire didn’t ignite any natural gas and no one was injured during the incident.

As many as 16 fire departments responded to the fire, which remained under investigation Sunday night, Solobay said.

Don Bialosky, an emergency response manager at the state Department of Environmental Protection in Pittsburgh, said the fire appeared to have been an accident.

Some nearby residents “self-evacuated” after seeing the fire, which may have been sparked by a malfunction in a hydraulic line, Solobay said.

He said all of the foam used to douse the blaze by the Washington County Public Safety Department appeared to have been contained at the site.

DEP workers would remain there to inspect the area to determine if anything was contaminated during the fire.

Southpointe-based Rice Energy spokeswoman Kimberly Price said all of the employees at the pad were accounted for, before she deferred additional comment on the fire to Solobay and Bialosky.

The Ellsworth, Valley Inn and Fallowfield Township fire departments were among the first to be called to the scene, Solobay said.

He said the other fire departments were needed for their tanker trucks to bring water to the fire scene.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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