Training kept pipeline blast from being bigger disaster

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McDuffie County Fire Chief Bruce Tanner had never worked a pipeline fire before last week, but he was prepared when he got the call.

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Firefighters determined a broad evacuation was not necessary after the pipeline rupture was contained.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Firefighters determined a broad evacuation was not necessary after the pipeline rupture was contained.

Each August, firefighters gather to learn about the dangers and strategies for working pipeline disasters.

"Because of that we were able to minimize the situation a little bit," said Dixie Pipeline spokesman Rick Rainey. "That was a tremendous help."

Firefighters already knew where emergency valves were located when they arrived at a Thomson propane pipeline explosion on July 5.

After quickly getting permission from Dixie representatives, Tanner was able to shut down the valves.

Firefighters cased the perimeter and determined an evacuation of the area wasn't necessary.

Tanner said as bad as the situation was, he knows it could have been worse.

"Before I arrived on the scene I thought there was a possibility that the Belle Meade subdivision was affected," he said.

Had the gas not ignited when it did, it could have traveled farther and more property could have been damaged and more people injured.

"It was a tragedy as it is, but it could have been a lot worse," Tanner said.

Jason McCorkle, 23, died in the explosion after his father, McDuffie County Commissioner Paul McCorkle, punctured a 2-inch hole in the pipe with a bulldozer.

The commissioner suffered freeze-type burns and has been released from the hospital, authorities said.

Along with training emergency responders, Rainey said pipeline companies make every effort to prevent these types of incidents.

Dixie Pipeline officials regularly monitor their lines and internally test their pipes. Markers are also placed along the pipeline.

Representatives distribute pamphlets to owners and contractors in a pipeline area and require anyone digging in the pipeline vicinity contact them 48 hours in advance. A representative is then sent out to watch over the pipeline during digging, Rainey said.

Through a preliminary investigation, Rainey said Dixie officials have not found where anyone was notified of McCorkle's digging.

"According to federal statistics, third-party hits are still the single largest cause of pipeline incidents in the country," he said.

The Department of Transportation maintains that pipelines are the safest means of transporting petroleum products and natural gas.

Including the Thomson accident, two deaths and twelve injuries have resulted from pipeline incidents in Georgia since 2000, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

"The pipeline runs all the way from North Carolina to Texas," Tanner said, "and yet you don't hear about this stuff."

Tanner said he has heard some concerns from Thomson residents about pipeline safety, but he assures them he and Dixie Pipeline are doing everything to avoid this happening again.

"Anytime anything like this happens, people get anxious," he said. "We assure them that there are things in place already to mitigate this, but there's no way you can mitigate it 100 percent. "Mistakes are made and this kind of thing happens."

Tanner took the opportunity to point out the importance of calling if you're ever working near the pipeline.

Construction has begun to repair the damaged pipe, Rainey said, but an investigation of the incident is still ongoing.

Audio: 911 call

The audio above is of the McCorkle family's 911 call regarding damage to the Dixie Pipeline liquid propane gas line. The call is Paul McCorkle and his family reporting the damage to the pipeline. As with any 911 call audio, the content involved can be disturbing. Listener discretion is advised.

Comments (13) Add comment
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gijoe7898
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gijoe7898 07/11/10 - 04:09 am
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ambulance chaser

ambulance chaser

gijoe7898
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gijoe7898 07/11/10 - 04:09 am
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think you could do this in a

think you could do this in a more discrete manner Jacob?

proffjimbob
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proffjimbob 07/11/10 - 08:10 am
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To deny this explosion the

To deny this explosion the adjective "devastating", as one writer did, shows depth of character far more shallow than the crater left behind. Since April 20, when the oil rig exploded in the Gulf, 18 people have died across this nation in natural gas explosions ! Leaks are everywhere. I investigated leaks for over 15 years and was fired and blacklisted for talking with homeowners about safety. Any town with gas lines has leaks in it, PERIOD. If I didn't find a leak within the first hour of everyday, I'd test my equipment to make sure it was working. Each gas company has an "existing leak" report that is given out to inspectors to recheck constantly. Call them and see if your address is on it. Devastation begins at home, up close and personal.

Ushouldnthave
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Ushouldnthave 07/11/10 - 08:18 am
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Just to remind proff, this

Just to remind proff, this was not caused by a "leak", it was caused by a bulldozer striking the pipeline. If it weren't for that, this never would have occurred.

getalife
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getalife 07/11/10 - 08:41 am
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I thought the McDuffie fire

I thought the McDuffie fire chief is Bruce Tanner, not Marshall??

Ushouldnthave
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Ushouldnthave 07/11/10 - 08:47 am
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You're right, getalife.

You're right, getalife. Marshall is the sheriff.

HistoryBuff
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HistoryBuff 07/11/10 - 08:53 am
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Logan Marshall is the

Logan Marshall is the sheriff, not Bruce Marshall.
Releasing the 911 tape is just ghoulish. Who wants to hear that except for people who feed on the pain of others -- bad form Chronicle, bad form!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 07/11/10 - 10:20 am
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Bianca Cain wrote: . . . an

Bianca Cain wrote:

. . . an investigation of the incident is still ongoing.

I wonder what they are “investigating?” It will be nothing more than speculation to propose an ignition source. It could have been a spark from two pieces of metal striking together. It could have been a cigarette. It could have been an internal combustion engine. It could have been a spark from a battery. Can anyone suggest something else?

corgimom
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corgimom 07/11/10 - 10:56 am
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I just can't imagine Paul

I just can't imagine Paul McCorkle's anguish.

getalife
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getalife 07/11/10 - 11:57 am
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I read in an earlier article

I read in an earlier article that 5 different agencies were investigating the accident?? Seems like a waste of resource. I agree with Historybluff, why release the 911 tape, this really goes beyond media reporting. The family is already devastated enough without having this to remind them. Hopefully the family will not read this inaccurate article. I also agree with Little Lamb, what does it matter what set the explosion off, it could have been almost anything considering the gas had spread in such a large area.

Ushouldnthave
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Ushouldnthave 07/11/10 - 01:06 pm
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How can anyone use discretion

How can anyone use discretion when listening to the 911 tape when it plays automatically?

getalife
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getalife 07/11/10 - 02:46 pm
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I see they now have the

I see they now have the online article corrected with the name Bruce Tanner. I guess the paper version went out wrong.

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 07/11/10 - 07:49 pm
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I know there's one injury and

I know there's one injury and one death from the accident but is the pipe line company and/or the rescue services going to take legal action to recover some of their expenses?

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