A pipeline carrying liquefied petroleum gas exploded Thursday morning near Milford, and residents of the tiny Ellis County town could be forced to stay out of their homes until sometime Friday.“This could take as long as 24 hours,” said Lt. James Saulter of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department. “The biggest concern is if there is any danger to other pipelines, which is still being evaluated by Chevron.”In a news release Thursday evening, Chevron officials said the fire was shrinking “as residual product is flared and burned off.” An adjacent 14-inch gas carrying liquid petroleum gas was being watched, and workers were sent to depressurize it by removing gas, the news release said.The explosion occurred about 9:30 a.m. just outside of Milford, a community of about 730 people about 60 miles southeast of Fort Worth, said Sara Garcia, an Ellis County spokeswoman. A Chevron crew was working at the site when the 10-inch pipeline exploded.“A crew was performing excavation activities at the site when a rupture in the line was reported,” Chevron said in a statement. “Five workers at the site were immediately evacuated. All employees are accounted for and there are no reported injuries.”The blast site is near the intersection of U.S. 77 and Farm Road 308, and the explosion sent a steady stream of thick, black smoke across the sky that could be seen as far away as Ennis and Waxahachie.The smoke traveled north through Ellis County and into Dallas County, the National Weather Service said. It began to dissipate later Thursday. At one point, smoke could be seen from the National Weather Service office in north Fort Worth.As residents were being evacuated, the Red Cross was setting up a temporary shelter at the Italy school district’s Multipurpose Center, where Milford school district students had already been sent. Most of the students have been reunited with their families.“They got here about 20 to 30 minutes after the explosion,” said Lisa Jacinto, an Italy school district spokeswoman.Several other buildings in Italy may be used as shelters if needed, Saulter said.“All roads in and out of Milford are closed,” Saulter said. “We are setting up crews to man those roadblocks for the next 18 to 24 hours.”In Italy, school officials did not feel the explosion but the black plume of smoke was clearly visible.“We don’t know how long they’ll be here but it’s still burning,” Jacinto said.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna