Residents panic as bush fire ravages abandoned oil wells

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 05:45

Res­i­dents of Pe­nal Rock Road broke out in­to pan­ic on Sun­day af­ter a bush fire en­gulfed two oil wells, fu­elling fear of an ex­plo­sion.

How­ev­er, fire­fight­ers were able to get the blaze un­der con­trol with no loss to prop­er­ty and no in­juries.

Apart from a house about 100 feet away, the wells are sit­u­at­ed in a bushy area a few feet away from the road at the one and three quar­ter mile mark. How­ev­er, there are hous­es on the op­po­site side of the road.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from the Her­itage Pe­tro­le­um Com­pa­ny Ltd, the com­pa­ny was no­ti­fied of a fire around 3.30 pm at in­ac­tive wells BP 371 & BP 373 at Pe­nal Rock Road. “Pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­di­cat­ed that the in­ci­dent was the re­sult of a bush fire that had spread to the lo­ca­tions and caused a valve to leak. Per­son­nel from Her­itage and the Fire Ser­vices units in Siparia and Mon Re­pos were in­formed and re­spond­ed,” the com­pa­ny said in a re­lease.

The com­pa­ny said the fire was ex­tin­guished at 5.30 p.m and the line was iso­lat­ed. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny, the req­ui­site safe­ty pre­cau­tions and re­pair works have been com­plet­ed. 

“Sen­si­ti­sa­tion ses­sions were held with near­by res­i­dents and there were no re­ports of in­jury or of per­sons in need of med­ical care,” it added.

The com­pa­ny said air qual­i­ty tests were al­so con­duct­ed and the re­sults in­di­cat­ed there was no threat to on-site per­son­nel or to near­by res­i­dents. It said clean-up of resid­ual oil was in-progress and all reg­u­la­to­ry agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Min­istry of En­er­gy and En­er­gy Af­fairs; En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Au­thor­i­ty (EMA) and the Oc­cu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health Agency (OS­HA) had been no­ti­fied.

When Guardian Me­dia vis­it­ed yes­ter­day there was a team of per­son­nel from the com­pa­ny and the min­istry on site.

A res­i­dent who lived op­po­site the site said he and his fam­i­ly, in­clud­ing his new­born ba­by, five and 11-year-old daugh­ters had to leave their home be­cause of the vol­ume of smoke. The me­chan­ic shop own­er, who iden­ti­fied him­self on­ly as Boe, said, “It start­ed off small we did not think it would go so far. I hear voom and the well catch on fire. The fire was more than 50 feet high. It was blaz­ing.”

He said the fire truck ar­rived on the scene more than an hour af­ter they con­tact­ed them. He said some­time lat­er a sec­ond truck came to the scene and they used foam to out the fire.

“It was scary be­cause we did not know if it would ex­plode.”

Res­i­dent Dar­ren Bar­ban said he saw the thick black smoke from his home but he did go to the site be­cause he was afraid the wells would ex­plode.

Reporter: Sascha Wilson