Fire still burning at Prud'Homme pumping station

A natural gas fire continues to burn near Prud'Homme, Sask. after an explosion at a pumping station Saturday morning.

SaskEnergy has called in an oilfield firefighting company to help put out the blaze

The fire at a pumping station near Prud'Homme continued to burn through the night with flames up to 18 metres high. (Submitted by Katherine Regnier)

A natural gas fire continues to burn near Prud'Homme, about 70 km northeast of Saskatoon, a day after an explosion at a TransGas pumping station. 

SaskEnergy spokesman Dave Burdeniuk told CBC News Sunday that the fire that started Saturday burned through the night with flames more than 18 metres high.

SaskEnergy has been conducting air quality tests in the area, and said there is no concern. However, the 12 people who were forced from their homes on Saturday are still not allowed to return.

The Crown corporation has also called in specialized firefighters from the oilfield, and hope to have the fire out as soon as possible, he said. 

"We hope to have this off today," Burdeniuk said.

"[But] these jobs can sometimes take a couple of days or even longer but we hope to have it off today and we're going to make every attempt to do that."

You can't pour water on this and put the fire out, you've got to actually get in there, close off the gas supply and the fire will go out.- Dave Burdeniuk

While the flames are extreme, Burdeniuk said the fire is burning similarly to when they do controlled flares in natural gas pipelines. The crews are taking the precautions that would apply if there were a natural gas fire in a home.

"It's a natural gas flame — no different than if we're working with fire departments," he said. 

Fire will burn until gas is shut off

But because of that, crews need to turn off the gas supply before it will stop burning. 

"You can't put a natural gas fire out with water, you've got to shut off the gas supply and then the fire will go out. So this is really no different, you can't pour water on this and put the fire out you've got to actually get in there, close off the gas supply and the fire will go out."

Firetrucks block the road to a TransGas pump station near Prud'Homme, Sask. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)
According to Burdeniuk, it's uncertain what went wrong with the wellhead that made it ignite in the first place, but crews worked through the night gathering information. Firefighters donned specialized fire gear and heat shields and were walking right into the flames. 

"We don't know what's wrong with it ... we need to get as much intelligence as possible to make sure that by trying to turn off part of the wellhead, you don't create another problem," Burdeniuk said.

But the good news, Burdeniuk said, is the flames are coming out of the side of the damaged well head and then shooting straight up. This means crews should be able to work with the existing equipment to put out the fire. 

According to Burdeniuk, this marks the second time since 1964 that SaskEnergy has had a natural gas release from a cavern that it has not been able to shut off on its own, and the first time for a fire at a cavern wellhead. 

with files from CBC's Madeline Kotzer and Tory Gillis