Mexico residents say pipeline fire woke them in a panic

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AUDRIAN COUNTY - One day after a pipeline exploded north of Mexico, Missouri, residents say they are still shaken up.

The Mexico Public Safety Department confirmed there was a pipeline fire at approximately 4:17 a.m. Sunday. One resident told KOMU 8 her home was just one mile away from the explosion.

"I thought the neighbors house caught on fire because my bedroom got very light, so I ran to the window, looked out and had my phone to call 911," said Kathy Hopkins. 

Aside from the light, she says the sound was alarming.

"The noise was horrible," she said. "My animals went crazy and I run downstairs and my 22 year old is sound asleep." 

One resident said although it was early, it seemed like the entire city was on the road. 

"The traffic was heavy, 3:30 a.m. looked like Friday at 5:00 p.m.," said Mexico resident Adolph Ogar. "Every other house people were just getting in their cars and taking off," said Hopkins.

Ogar said his wife encouraged him to get in the car and look for the fire. 

"We drove down a gravel road out north and with the windows up in the truck we could feel the heat," he said. 

Hopkins said her family decided not to evacuate Mexico because of the snow, but she didn't notice the cold when she was leaving the house. 

"I was in a t-shirt and shorts and I didn't notice the cold at that time," Hopkins said.

The pipe belongs to Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Company, LP.

Their natural gas line exploded in Pettis County and Howard County near the Howard-Boone County line in 2013 and 2009, respectfully. 

Howard County Sheriff Mike Neal, who has been in law enforcement for over 20 years in the county, said law enforcement can get overwhelmed when a large fire breaks out. 

He said he has sympathy for law enforcement in Audrain County because they have to block off a large area.

"If you're out in the middle of nowhere, you've got all the gravel roads, all the blacktop roads, access, you have to block it off and keep everyone out of that area," Neal said. 

A spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company, who owns the pipeline, told KOMU 8 in an email the pipe was regularly inspected and maintained.

Ogar said he has seen the inspection plans before. 

"They fly over it and make sure nothing is going on with it all of the time," he said.  

For now, the area around the fire is still blocked off.

"The detour on Highway 15 remains in place so that we may secure the area and safely get our crews in and out of the site," said Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson Amanda Gorgueiro. "This will allow us to facilitate the incident investigation and the repairs to the line. Investigations of this type are very detailed so there is no additional information at this time." 

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