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Gas Pipeline Blast In Fresno Injures Nearly A Dozen People

Apr 17, 2015

A natural gas pipeline explosion near Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue in Fresno injured over a dozen people on Friday afternoon at a local shooting range.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

UPDATE: Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has confirmed that two Fresno County Sheriff's Deputies were also injured, and has revised the injury total to 11 people.

ORIGINAL POST:

A natural gas explosion at the peace officers gun range in Fresno has left 14 injured, three critically. FM89's Joe Moore reports. 

A gas pipeline at the range ignited at around 2:30 PM this afternoon, shooting a massive wall of flames into the sky and shutting down traffic on Highway 99 near Herndon Avenue. 

Fresno County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Tony Botti says the fire began when a tractor driver with a county road crew struck the line near the end of a course on the gun range, which is used by local law enforcement. 

Botti: "Initially when this thing broke out we were getting reports of flames shooting anywhere  from 70 to 100 feet into the air, dark plumes of smoke thereafter. You can see its dissipated, the sky is clear so they've gotten a good handle on it." 

The fire snarled traffic throughout north Fresno, closing Herndon Avenue and portions of Highway 99.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Three people including the tractor driver were airlifted to area hospitals with serious injuries. Others suffered less severe burns and inuries including inmates with a county work crew. No law enforcement officers were injured.  

Botti: "We actually had a deputy who was there right away. A CHP officer came in, they teamed up to perform medical aid on the man who was hurt the worst."

Fresno resident Ray Catano nearby was at home with his family when the explosion took place. 

Catano: "I was just doing my homework for school. I didn't really hear nothing, but I felt like the floor vibrate. I didn't think nothing of it, until I seen them going outside to see what it was. When I got outside I saw a big ball of flame basically, over the dry grass."

The fire also shut down traffic on the nearby Union Pacific Railroad.