Local News

New Report Places Blame for Cary Gas Line Fire

Posted October 27, 2007 6:01 p.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2007 11:17 p.m. EDT

— New information has been released regarding who might be to blame for Cary’s gas line fire on Oct. 10.

Contractors were digging to install a traffic signal at Kildaire Farm and Tryon roads when they punctured a gas line, resulting in a fireball. A preliminary report by Cary town engineers directs part of the blame to the gas company, PSNC Energy.

“Were the gas lines marked in a way that a reasonable person would’ve been able to know not to drill in that area?” Town of Cary spokeswoman Susan Moran asked.

The report says no. The marks were “too-faded” for the contractor, Fulcher-Electric, to see.

“We know our mark of the pipeline was accurate and visible,” said PSNC Energy spokeswoman Angie Townsend.

PSNC Energy officials said their yellow paint is water-based, and the fading could stem from firefighters pouring gallons of water to put out the fire. The company took pictures right after the incident to show the paint was still visible.

PSNC said the marks were painted at the contractor's request, which was submitted in September. The markings are good for 15 working days from the request date, so the order expired Oct. 4.

On Oct. 9, PSNC Energy got another request from the contractor to locate lines at the Tryon and Kildaire Farm roads. Utilities have 48 hours to make the markings or refresh them, but one day after the request, the contractor started drilling.

“Unfortunately, the contractor did not wait for the required 48 hours for us to mark the line,” Townsend said.

“We are aware of the timing issue,” Moran said.

Moran said town staff is also looking into whether the contractor followed proper procedure.

“[The report is] not a conclusion. It’s not a final investigation,” Moran said.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission is investigating what led to the burning spectacle.

“We are confident that investigation will show PSNC followed all proper locating procedures,” Townsend said.

WRAL’s efforts to reach Fulcher Electric officials on Saturday were unsuccessful. Cary officials said public safety response and cleanup costs from the gas line fire were about $55,000.

Insurance companies for the town of Cary and Fulcher-Electric were still investigating the incident.