NTSB: Leak found in gas line at scene of Okla. fire that killed chief, firefighter

Investigators believe there were no smoke detectors in the home at the time of the fire, according to the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal's Office


Kelci McKendrick
Enid News & Eagle, Okla.

WAYNOKA, Okla. — A leak has been discovered in a natural gas line going into a house in Waynoka where four people died Friday in a fire, according to National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB is investigating the deadly blaze that killed two residents and two Waynoka firefighters. NTSB is best known for investigating aviation accidents, but it also investigates other modes of transportation regulated by the Department of Transportation, including highway, railroad, marine and pipeline accidents, which NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said is because it involves the movement of chemicals and materials.

"If there is an accident involving a pipeline that is on the outside of the meter — so the house has a meter, anything on the house-side of the meter, we would not have jurisdiction over," Knudson said. "Anything outside the meter — anywhere from a service line that goes from the street, to the house, to the distribution line, to the transmission line, you know, the larger ones — that's all within our jurisdiction."

Knudson said a leak was discovered in the service line going to the house, and because of that and the fatalities, the agency opened an investigation.

The fire occurred in the early morning hours Friday. Residents of the home in the 1700 block of Locust Street reported the fire at 3:07 a.m., saying the house was on fire and they were stuck inside a bedroom.

Waynoka Fire Department arrived at 3:16 a.m., and two firefighters went inside the residence after firefighters were unable to reach the residents through the window.

According to a post from Pond Creek Fire and EMS Fire and Rescue Chaplain Les Washnock, the roof then collapsed, trapping the firefighters and residents inside. The cause of the fire still is under an ongoing investigation, according to a press release from Oklahoma State Fire Marshal's Office.

The release said there is no indication of a crime being committed, and the fire appears to have originated in the kitchen/living room area of the home. Investigators believe that no smoke detectors were present in the home at the time of the fire, the release said.

The Medical Examiner's Office has not yet released the names of the victims.

Knudson said NTSB can investigate the pipeline without physically going to the scene and will not be traveling to Waynoka. NTSB will gather information first, then dig deeper to see what caused the leak and the resulting fire and see what safety recommendations it can make to reduce the risk of further accidents.

"We're going to start documenting ... learning what happened there, documenting that evidence," Knudson said. "There was a leak discovered — what's the nature of the leak? Do we know how long it's been there? Are there any inspection protocols? Were there any indications of a leak prior to that? How was the report handled? Was that leak discovered just only after the accident, or were there any reports of possible leaks before that? So, we'll look at all of that and then we just go where the facts take us."

Knudson said these types of investigations can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months.

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(c)2021 the Enid News & Eagle (Enid, Okla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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