Oil rig fire: Some E. Utah families returning home
Evacuation downsized • Rig fire still burns, but evacuation down to quarter-mile radius.
Published: January 25, 2013 01:00PM
Updated: January 25, 2013 01:42PM

A partial downsizing of an evacuation area around a burning eastern Utah oil rig was allowing some Roosevelt families to return to their homes Friday for the first time in three days.

Chip Minty, spokesman for the Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, said that 12 families in all had left their homes originally when the rig 1.5 miles north of Roosevelt caught fire early Tuesday morning. The Duchesne County Sheriff’s Office evacuated residents living within a half-mile radius of the site.

“It’s still burning and our oil well firefighting experts are still on the site working toward capping the well and regaining control of the site,” Minty said Friday. “But some of the residents are being allowed to return as the evacuation area is now down to a quarter-mile [radius].”

Exactly how many families were returning was undetermined, however, since some of them had not decided whether to go home immediately or “continue another day or two” in lodgings provided at the expense of Devon Energy and site owners Frontier Drilling, Minty said.

Houston-based Wild Well Control continued Friday to develop its strategy for the painstaking process of safely capping the fire. The firm has responded to oil and natural gas well fire emergencies for more than three decades, including the 1991 Kuwait Oil Field fires.

As of Friday, there was no estimated time for when the crack team of oil well firefighters might put out the flames.

The fire was quickly contained to the drilling rig area on Tuesday, but fears about the release of hydrogen sulfide gas prompted the decision to evacuate the immediate area. The cause of the fire remained undetermined.

The blaze was reported about 12:10 a.m. Tuesday. Drilling crews had recently completed sinking a well shaft when there was a release of oil and gas that then ignited.

remims@sltrib.com