Updated Thu, Dec 8, 2011 11:30 am
Update 3:55 p.m.
Investigators from the State Fire Marshal's office are waiting on the all-clear from the Tennessee Gas company to start looking into what caused a morning gas pipeline explosion in Homer Township.
At a press conference, State Fire Marshal's spokesman Shane Cartmill said the two investigators assigned to the case have not yet been to the site. He says they anticipate beginning the investigation soon and working into tomorrow. Cartmill says the investigators will mainly be looking into any possible criminal activity, although none is believed at this time.
Volunteer firefighter and Jacksonville Mayor George Pallo says his firehouse got the call around 8:37 a.m. "We were 3 miles away and we could see the flames in the air and hear the roar and we knew we had a major problem," he said. Pallo says he has never seen anything like it before in his life.
Pallo says homeowner Cathy Sayers spent nearly 10 minutes in her house after the explosion, gathering personal belongings. "I am amazed. I don't know how she spent 7 to 9 minutes in there," Pallo says.
Pallo says the fire was contained around 1 p.m. He said the rainy weather helped firefighters on the scene: "Mother nature was on our side today with the rain. It made the mop up a lot easier."
Emergency agencies from Morgan, Athens, Perry and Washington Counties all responded to this morning's explosion, as well as 14 area fire departments.
Cartmill says the gas company will conduct a separate investigation into the line. He says the Morgan County sheriff and the gas company should know more by tomorrow afternoon.
Update 3:25 p.m.
The woman who lived in a farmhouse near where a gas pipeline exploded in Morgan County says she thought it was the end of the world.
"I heard this loud rumbling and I thought it was the end of time and God was coming," says Cathy Sayers. "It was just all bright, it was just bright so I thought God was coming. Ceilings were falling in and stuff was falling and breaking and I finally thought I got to do something, I opened the front door to go out and it was hot. So, I went back in, so I just went back in and grabbed my stuff and I left."
The explosion happened around 8:30 a.m. in Homer Township on Taylor Road.
Flames reported shot 200 to 300 feet in the air.
"It burnt our house, our garage, the little farm house that we rented, the old, old farmhouse. It's all down to the foundation," says Sayers.
Tennesse Gas owns the line and is investigating what caused the explosion and fire.
Sayers say no one was digging or doing work in the area at the time of the explosion.
Even though she's sad that they have lost their home, Sayers says she knows there is reason to be thankful.
"God helped me get out. That's all I can say. He just helped me get out," says Sayers. "It can be replaced, not all my keepsakes, but it can be replaced."
Sayers and her husband, John, plan to stay with family until they can find a place to live.
"I got out alive and that's all that matters."
Sayers says she left the house in a pair of slippers, which felt like they weighed 10 pounds because of today's rain.
"I grabbed a coat that was one of the last things I grabbed was a coat."
Update 12:25 p.m.
The manager of media relations at Tennessee Gas says it's "way too early to even speculate about a cause" of this morning's gas pipeline explosion at the Morgan-Athens County line.
Richard Wheatley says they have confirmed that the line in Homer Township does belong to Tennessee Gas.
He says the line is part of a 14,000 mile interstate pipeline that runs from extreme eastern Texas to the northeast.
Wheatley says there were no customer impacts because they have multiple lines and alternate routes to move natural gas.
He confirmed that Tennessee Gas had another pipeline incident last February in Columbiana County.
Wheatley says on February 10, there was a rapid release of gas into the atmosphere and a fire followed.
But, he says people shouldn't conclude the two are related.
"We try to operate our pipeline safely and efficiently each and every day," says Wheatley.
Update 12:00 p.m.
All fires are out and the clean-up effort is now underway at the scene of a gas pipeline explosion at the Morgan-Athens County line.
Athens County Public Information Officer Ron Lucas says the fires were out as of 11:48 a.m.
Representatives from Tennessee Gas Pipeline issued a release that stated it is too early to determine the cause of the gas line explosion.
Update 11:39 a.m.
Update 11:30 a.m.
Even though the Morgan County Sheriff is reporting that the pipeline belongs to Texas Eastern, Texas Eastern is saying it is not their line.
Tennessee Gas says they are working to confirm if the line involved belongs to them.
Update 11:03 a.m.
Morgan County Sheriff's Officials say a gas pipeline explosion this morning could be felt as far as 12 miles away.
According to a news release, it was a Texas Eastern transmission line that ruptured in the southwest corner of Homer Township on Taylor Road.
Three buildings were destroyed.
The gas company has closed the line on both sides of the rupture.
Update 10:49 a.m.
The Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office has been called in to investigate a pipeline explosion at the Morgan-Athens County line.
Spokesman Shane Cartmill says two investigators are now on scene and two more will join them later today.
Update 10:44 a.m.
One person was taken to the hospital following this morning's gas line explosion in Morgan County.
According to Athens County Public Information Officer Ron Lucas, the person was taken to O'Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens for respiratory symptoms.
Lucas says firefighters report one home and a barn at 9500 Taylor Road caught fire, but no one was at home at the time of the explosion.
Update 10:30 a.m.
The manager of media relations for Tennessee Gas Pipeline says they've activated their emergency response plan and crews are being sent to an explosion scene at the Athens-Morgan County line.
Richard Wheatley says they are still trying to confirm that the line that exploded this morning belongs to them.
"There are a number of pipelines in the area and we have to confirm first that the pipeline is ours," says Wheatley.
But, he says they are operating as if the line does belong to them.
"We are responding as if the pipeline is in fact ours and taking appropriate emergency measures. Our emergency response plan has been activated," says Wheatley.
Update 10:15 a.m.
The natural gas feeding a pipeline at the Athens-Morgan County line has been turned off, but there is still a fire buring at the explosion site.
Lieutenant Jeff Skinner of the Ohio State Highway Patrol says some residual gas is still burning.
He also says the specific location of the explosion is actually in Morgan County on Taylor Road.
Emergency responders are still coming to the scene.
WOUB Reporter Fred Kight says State Route 329 is closed. The Ohio Department of Transportation says motorists will encounter the closure between mile markers 2.5-19.0 in the Trimble area. It is unknown when the road will re-open.
Kight says the flames were 200 to 300 feet high at one point.
He talked with Trooper Robert Bradley and Athens County Environmental Officer Jay Barrett. The pair said at about 9 a.m. they tried to get close to the flames, but could only get within 1,000 yards of the fire because of the heat. Trooper Bradley could not say if homes in the immediate area are affected.
No injuries have been reported yet.
Update: 9:36 a.m.
Authorities say there are no reported injuries at this time in connection with an explosion in northern Athens County.
Athens Public Information Office Ron Lucas says, "There have been preliminary reports of a major gas line explosion in the Athens County and Morgan County area. There are no reported injuries at this time."
Witness Tim Traxler says, "The roar of the fire is so loud."
The fire is located near Trimble near Hooper Ridge Road and Robinson Ridge Road.
"Flames are shooting hundreds of feet in the air," says Traxler.
"Athens County 911 is aware of the incident and the Athens County Emergency Operations Center is operational. If county residents have emergencies that are not related to this gas line incident, please call 911, but please refrain from contacting 911 to report the gas line explosion," says Lucas.
Traxler says there are at least three buildings on fire at a barn nearby.
An explosion has been reported near Trimble.
Witnesses say flames are shooting hundreds of feet in the air.
Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly says it was reported near Hooper Ridge Road and Robinson Ridge.
There is a gas pipeline that runs near that area.
Kelly says they are not sure what caused the explosion yet.
Witness Tim Traxler says a farm is located nearby and something is on fire at the barn.
Authorites want residents to stay clear of the area.
Slideshow: Cathy Sayers: Victim of Morgan Co. Gas Pipeline Explosion
Cathy Sayers was in nearby farm house when pipeline exploded.
Sayers holds up photo of her husband's brother. John Sayers' brother was killed in Vietnam and Cathy made sure to get the photo out of the home for her husband.
Sayers talks to reporters about her escape from the home. She also tells them what she saw and heard when the pipeline exploded.
Cathy Sayers leans on a car and watches the flames.
Portions of State Route 329 were closed to block people from getting too close to the explosion scene.