Four homes went up in flames and collapsed in charred heaps Tuesday after a natural-gas line exploded in an inferno that raged for at least an hour, melting guardrails and pavement on a swath of Interstate 77.
Five other homes had extensive external damage, and several people were treated for smoke inhalation, but authorities said there were no fatalities and all residents had been accounted for.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who toured the damage then briefed the media. “They were just lucky enough not to be home.”
Most were at work.
State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said a slight risk of a secondary explosion remained, so people who initially had been told to stay inside nearby homes later were urged to evacuate.
The explosion occurred between Sissonville and Pocatalico just before 1 p.m. in a 20-inch transmission line owned by NiSource Inc., parent of Columbia Gas. The gas flow was shut off, but State Police 1st Sgt. James Lee said there was still pressure on the transmission line.
Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission, said flames had been shooting 50 to 75 feet into the air before the fire was extinguished.