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Officials evacuate small Wyoming town following explosion


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OPAL, Wyo. — An explosion at an energy company in Wyoming caused the evacuation of the entire population of a small town.

A natural gas explosion occurred around 2 p.m. at Williams Energy Service and quickly engulfed a large part of the plant in flames.

Lincoln County public relations representative Stephen Malik said the explosion in Opal didn't cause any injuries, but police have evacuated all residents as a precaution.

"Everyone is being ordered to evacuate east of town," Malik said. "We're working on long-term sheltering plans."

Malik said police and fire officials were currently unsure if the explosion was caused by natural gas or another source. A fire was reported in the facility shortly following the blast, but so far no one has been injured, police said.

"There have been no injuries reported at this time but we've evacuated the residents in case fire spreads," Malik said.

Officials were unsure what caused the explosion, Malik said, and county crews were being dispatched to help local firefighters extinguish the flames.

Opal has about 100 permanent residents and is populated mostly by natural gas and other petroleum based workers.

"We're still gathering details about what has occurred," Malik said. "We've got a lot of gas infrastructure in the area. It's natural and petroleum gas."

The company has an on-site fire-suppression team, but Malik said other agencies from around the county are on site to aid the team.

Williams Energy Service spokesperson George Angerbauer released a statement on behalf of the company Wednesday night.

"The company's top priority right now is ensuring the safety of our employees and surrounding community, as well as cooperating with the local authorities and regulatory agencies. Natural-gas gathering from surrounding producing areas is temporarily suspended as a result of the incident. The company is evaluating alternatives so that natural gas production can resume as soon as possible."

It's too early to determine the extent of the damage caused by the fire, Angerbauer said, and the company hasn't set up a timeline for when employees will be able to return to work.

Opal resident Susie Wise said she could feel the heat from the fire when she stepped out of her home to see what was happening.

"It was a wall of fire. It was red and hot, and I mean it was huge," Wise said.

As of Wednesday night at around 10 p.m., the fire was still burning. Officials said it could be hours or even days until the fire is out, depending on residual fuels.

Until the fire is completely out, there is still a chance for a second explosion. So Opal residents will not be allowed back into there homes until the fire is put out.

Contributing:Devon Dolan


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