When Natural Gas Pipe Line at Regulating Station Was Ruptured, Chief Pence, Stillwater, Okla., Took Quick Emergency Measures to Notify Citizens of Danger

STILLWATER, OKLA., a college city of about 9,000 population, is supplied with natural gas for general domestic uses, and like installations in most communities, very few gas stoves and appliances are vented to flues. The city is served from a distant oil field by a single gas pipe line, carrying pressures varying from 125 to 425 pounds, which is reduced to 20 pounds at a regulating station at the city limits. Industries and large consumers are served at 20 pounds and domestic users are served at one pound or less through other regulating stations in the city.

High Pressure Gas Line Is Ruptured

At 12:45 a.m., on February 27, the high pressure line at the regulating station ruptured at a faultily welded patch on the pipe, while the pressure was at maximum. The 6-inch pipe was ripped open and blown out flat and gas to the city was immediately cut off. Owing to cold weather, hundreds of gas stoves were burning and soon went out for lack of fuel, while few people were aware of the situation. An extremely dangerous condition would result when gas was turned on again, unless every unvented burner in town was shut off.

Fire Department Takes Quick Action

The Stillwater Fire Department, under direction of Chief J. Ray Pence, was immediately notified. The off shift and volunteers were called in and a previously arranged emergency plan was placed in effect. The telephone company was notified and called in all the off shift of operators. Fire department members called every telephone in the directory. Thirty-five hundred bulletins were run off on mimeograph at the fire station and placed in the hands of news boys who were instructed to wake up every householder. The bulletin notified of the gas failure, warning that all heating appliances must be shut off, and that sirens would be blown when gas was turned on. A whistle at the city electric plant and sirens on fire engines driven about town provided the means of notification.

The effectiveness of the precautions is apparent from the fact that gas was turned in at 7 a.m. and there were no fires or explosions. The only injury was a burn suffered by a plumber who lighted a match to start a gas furnace in the home of the President of the Oklahoma A. & M. College. He had been notified, knew the danger and admitted his carelessness.

The gas company is now making preparation to serve the city from two sources of gas supply.

Value of Alert Fire Department Illustrated

The incident illustrates the value of an alert Fire Department and a prearranged emergenev plan. The dangers of gas appliances not effectively vented are obvious, but cannot be readily remedied as most of the houses in the gas country are built without adequate flues. In one of the large stores of the city there were seventeen open unvented gas heaters burning that night. Failure to shut off the heaters before gas was restored would have made an explosion and fire probable.

Dense Smoke Emerging from the 3-Alarm Warehouse Fire

Need Shown for Odorizing Natural Gas

This also stresses the importance and necessity for odorizing natural gas for domestic and industrial uses. The gas served at Stillwater is practically odorless and unnoticeable to persons unless they enter a concentration of it directly from fresh air.

Chief J. Ray Pence and the Stillwater Fire Department are to be congratulated for having prearranged an “Emergency Plan” and placing it in effect. Prompt and efficient action undoubtedly was responsible for preventing explosions, fires and injuries.

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