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E. Utah oil rig fire being fought by crack Texas team

Published January 24, 2013 9:19 am

Evacuation continues • When Roosevelt area residents can return home is uncertain.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A team of oil well firefighting experts was at the site of an ongoing eastern Utah oil rig drilling site blaze Thursday as a three-day-old evacuation remain in effect with no definite end in sight.

Houston-based Wild Well Control, which has responded to oil and natural gas well fire emergencies since 1975, including the 1991 Kuwait Oil Field fires, was called in by Devon Energy, the operator of the well site 1.5 miles north of Roosevelt.

The well site, owned by Utah's Frontier Drilling, caught fire early Tuesday morning. The Duchesne County Sheriff's Department evacuated the site's employees and residents of five homes within a half-mile radius of the fire scene. No injuries were reported.

Chip Minty, spokesman for the Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, could not provide an estimate for when Wild Well Control would be able to extinguish the fire and cap the well.

"I can say they are working very hard and going about this in a very deliberate way. Safety is the most important thing to us here. We want to make sure it is safe for our workers to return, safe for the environment and safe for neighbors," Minty said.

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 evacuations will remain in place for as long as it takes to determine the site and its surroundings pose no further danger, Minty said.

Evacuees continued Thursday receiving lodging and having other living expenses met by the well's owners in the interim, Minty said. He could not predict when they would be allowed to return home.

The cause of the fire remained undetermined.

"For now, we're focusing on the matter at hand, which is extinguishing this fire. Once that is over with, we will move back in and investigate the cause," Minty said.

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