David Waples National Fuel
Gas well fire brought under control By The Associated Press and the Gazette staff PUNXSUTAWNEY - A gas well fire that destroyed a $750,000 drilling rig in Jefferson County was brought under control Monday Monday afternoon after burning for three days. The National Fuel Gas Co. well, located in a remote part of McCalmont Township between Punxsutawney and Anita, burst into flames Friday night. Cause of the fire is unknown, although there was speculation that it was started by a spark. Flames shot 35 feet into the air, said David Waples, a spokesman for National Fuel, which is based in Erie. The rig above the well melted. Burning natural gas creates carbon dioxide and water vapor, and the flames are tinted yellow, Waples said. Firefighters from five area companies were sent to control the blaze on Friday, when it was decided to let the fire burn until pressure in the well was reduced. On Monday a crew from National National Fuel, with equipment and manpower assistance from the McCalmont Township Fire Company, Company, extinguished the blaze. While the fire was temporarily out, the oil company crew placed a new valve over the well head. The fire was then reignited as a controlled burn, and plans are to extinguish it on a permanent basis today. Thousands of gallons of salt water were used to cool ground near the well before it was capped, officials said. National Fuel got help from a gas-fire expert from Houston. The drilling rig destroyed by the four-day fire was owned by Empire Exploration Inc., a subsidiary subsidiary of National Fuel Gas. There were no injuries reported reported as of Monday.