Kansas residents worried after oil well fire sparks again - KCTV5

Kansas residents worried after oil well fire sparks again

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RANTOUL, KS (KCTV) -

Some residents are concerned about their safety after two oil well fires in the last few days.

Fire officials say both fires started because a heating coil overloaded.

Oil storage tanks, like the ones that exploded Monday, are all around properties in Rantoul.

However, worried residents say there is nothing they can do about it because they own the land but not the rights to the minerals underneath.

Rob Leach awoke Monday morning to a loud noise and a trembling house.  A tanker battery that stores oil exploded near his home about 100 feet away.

The latest fire started about 6 a.m. Monday just south of Rantoul, KS.  Crews had to put foam on the blaze to get it out.

"I walked out the front door, and I could see a big mushroom of fire, smoke billowing up," Leach said.

It was the second time one of the tanks exploded in less than a week.

"I got kids playing around on their ATVs.  Who is to know what's going to happen," Leach said.

Fire chief James Savage of the Pottawatomie Township Fire Department said in order to load the crude oil onto trucks, a heating element is used to heat up the oil.

"So they heat it up to 100 degrees to get it to flow easier to pump and easier to store," Savage said.

A crewman with the company EnerJex Resources was loading oil unto a truck Monday morning, when it blew. The worker was able to get in his truck and drive away.

The heating element somehow ignited, said Savage, spilling 70 to 100 gallons of burning oil.

"It can go up to a point to where it fails and then it auto ignites," Savage said.  "These have all been vapor explosions, that we are aware of, there was not lighting involved on either one of the explosions."

EnerJex Resources would not answer KCTV5 questions but sent the following statement:

"We are aware of and concerned about the incident. We are currently conducting an investigation in conjunction with the appropriate authorities. We will not comment further until the completion of that investigation."

"I just fear this could happen a lot closer to home," Leach said.

Residents have more concerns such as runoff, contamination and have even filed a lawsuit.

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