Atmos Energy was in the process of investigating whether two house fires in a north Dallas neighborhood were caused by gas leaks when an explosion ripped through a third house, killing a young girl.
The Dallas Morning News reports that about 12 hours before the explosion, an Atmos employee emailed the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates energy in the state, to report that gas had been a possible factor in two house fires on February 21st and 22nd. But Atmos did not cut off supply lines to the area at that time or evacuate the neighborhood. On February 23rd the third home exploded, killing a 12 year old girl. After the explosion, Atmos cut supply lines to the area’s 2800 residents.
Multiple leaks in area
Initially Atmos attributed at least one of the previous fires as a possible cooking accident. It began to check the area for leaks as standard procedure and was still in that process when the house exploded. The three houses involved were on different streets separated by an alley. Over a two day period following the explosion, Atmos crews discovered at least 28 leaks in the neighborhood.
The Morning News obtained email between Atmos and the TRC through an open public records request. While the event is under investigation, agency spokesperson Gaye McElwain was being tight lipped about whether Atmos followed all possible precautions.
“Those issues are still under investigation,” she said via email. “Pipeline safety staff was sharing the best information available at the time with other staff members during a quickly developing situation to ensure we responded with the personnel and resources necessary to protect the public.”
The explosion is also being looked at by the National Transportation Safety Board. Atmos is in the process now of changing out old steel gas lines throughout the neighborhood.
Stunning power of a natural gas explosion
Certainly part of the state and federal investigation should study whether Atmos had a responsibility to shut down the supply of gas sooner than it did, which may have saved this girl’s life and her family’s home.
Gas crews typically operate with extreme caution when a gas leak is present, knowing the power of an explosion, as this video from New Jersey shows.
Houston attorneys for cases involving fires and explosions
At The Callahan Law Firm, we represent individuals and families in cases involving fires, explosions and other catastrophic events.