A cornfield in western Illinois was ablaze after Erie residents heard a massive explosion around 11 p.m. on Monday. An overflying aircraft reported the blaze from Pawnee, Ill., more than 160 miles away.
A natural gas pipeline carrying the byproducts propane and ethane somehow burst, caught fire, and exploded. Shooting 300 feet into the air, the fire could easily be seen from 20 miles away.
Eighty homes were evacuated. No injuries were reported, according to NBC News.
The eyewitness who shot the video below is three to four miles north of the fire. He said from that vantage “you can hear the roar of the pressure at this time.”
Operators of the pipeline reduced the flow of gas to the pipeline in an effort to let it burn off.
Enterprise Products Partners, the Houston-based energy company that owns the pipeline, operates 50,000 miles of oil, natural gas, and petrochemicals pipelines. According to ThinkProgress, in August 2011 an Enterprise pipelines carrying gasoline leaked an unknown amount of volatile chemicals into the Missouri River in Iowa.
This kind of uncontrolled natural gas combustion releases carbon dioxide and other harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, ThinkProgress reported.
“It’s not much of a fire now, but there’s still some fuel left in the pipe and they’re going to let that burn off, because it’s the safest way to handle it,” said Erie assistant fire chief Scott Melton.
Melton said the 80 homes evacuated were cleared to return home early Tuesday.