Compressor fire spurs evacuations

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One of four compressors at the site caught fire after its engine exploded.
Photos by Jill Hardison This was the scene Monday afternoon from atop Holley Mountain as a compressor burned on Oakland Road.

A compressor caught fire Monday afternoon at a natural gas well site on Oakland Road.

The fire, at a BHP Billiton site, began after a compression station engine exploded. The fire lasted for about an hour before BHP employees arrived to shut off a feeder line.

About 35 to 40 people in 20 or more homes were evacuated during the event. They were allowed to return home within about 90 minutes, according to Van Buren County Office of Emergency coordinator Jeana Williams.

Sheriff Scott Bradley said the homes were evacuated due to concerns about the dangers from a gas fire.

Williams said the fire call came in at 1:17 p.m. Monday. Firefighters from the Shirley and Burnt Ridge departments were on the scene within 13 minutes. The Holley Mountain fire department was on standby.

Also working the scene were about 10 deputies who kept traffic off the road, which is off Highway 16 between Clinton and Shirley.

Williams said there were no waterways affected and no hazardous materials were released.

There were four compressors at the site. BHP Billiton did not return an e-mail by press time.

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