It could be seen for miles in each direction, a giant ball of fire lighting up the Erie, Illinois sky after a gas line bursts. The late night disaster forced residents around the site to evacuate.
More than 30 families woke up around midnight to firefighters banging on their doors telling them they needed to get out, but the families who were closest, woke up to a much brighter kind of alarm.
"I heard a slight rumble and felt a slight rumble and when I looked out my window I saw light reflecting off the trees," Robert Sherrod said. "So I ran out my front door and saw this huge fire ball in the distance."
"It was 300 feet in the air when we got there," Scott Melton, Assistant Fire Chief for Erie Fire Department, said. "There was kind of a roaring sound as the fuel exited the pipe, it kind of sounded like a jet engine running."
Spitting flames and rushing gas, the Erie Fire Department says they felt helpless in the face of the blaze their hoses couldn't extinguish.
"We couldn't do much to it, we couldn't put a fire out like that we want to let it burn, Melton said. "It's safer to let it burn."
Not knowing how big the fireball could get, they wanted to get people as far away as possible. Robert Sherrod and his family gathered up some blankets and left right away. "The only concern was to make sure we were all safe," Sherrod said.
The pipelines belong to Enterprise Products and were filled with a highly flammable mixture of ethane and propane. The gas was quickly shut off from the source and the giant fireball was eventually reduced to nothing.
All of the families except two were allowed to return to their homes around 3:00 AM. A cause is still under investigation.
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