by Jonathan Weaver
A compressor explosion yesterday afternoon caused about a half-dozen local homes to shake and dozens of volunteer firefighters to keep flames under control.
About 2PM, Rural Valley, Dayton and Rayburn Township fire crews were dispatched to respond along the dead-end Kennerdell Lane in Cowashannock Township for the compressor building fire.
Rural Valley fire crews were ironically already at their fire station and responded quickly.
Fire Chief Kevin Nelson explained the role of firefighters until gas operators also responded.
“The compressor at Peoples Gas blew up inside the building and caught the building on fire,” Chief Nelson said. “We just had to cool the diesel tank and keep the fire down from the power lines – let it burn – until enough gas company officials showed up to get the valves shut off and shut off the gas well on the compressor to shut the gas off and extinguish the fire.
“It had exploded before we got there and shook the houses around the area. By the time we got there, it was already blowing and burning.”
Chief Nelson also requested the assistance of tanker trucks via Kittanning Township, Elderton and Plumville (Indiana County) units.
First Assistant Chief Bill Rupert said thousands of gallons of water were used just from Rural Valley’s apparatus.
“I was running the engine – I pumped 23,000 gallons of water,” Rupert said. “It took a lot of water to cool it.”
Rural Valley’s tanker, engine and rescue apparatus all responded.
Peoples Natural Gas Director of Community Affairs Barry Kukovich said the compressor station was automatic and thus un-manned and also serves mainly as a back-up.
“That’s the reason why we had no customers without gas service, because it was a back-up station. It wasn’t a main station,” Kukovich said.
Officials were on-scene for a few hours. Kukovich said Peoples Natural Gas employees might not know the cause for the fire for several days.
Chief Nelson said both the compressor and building were destroyed. No other damage was reported and nobody was injured.