CHIPPEWA TOWNSHIP: Fire crews from several Wayne and Summit County departments spent several hours Friday evening extinguishing flames from a tank after an explosion at a well in Chippewa Township.
The billowing clouds of black smoke followed a loud explosion that could be felt three miles away and sent flames shooting past 30-foot-tall trees on Taylor Road.
Chippewa Township Fire Lt. Cody Post said there were two storage tanks at the site, which harvested natural gas and crude oil.
“They [workers] were still installing equipment, they weren’t finished yet,” he said. “The two tanks were next to each other and one exploded and the other one suffered some damage. We delayed watering it down because we had to make sure that one wasn’t about to explode while we were attempting to put the fire out.”
There were no injuries.
Zachary Jenkins said he had just arrived at work at a farm when the drilling site near the Chippewa Golf Course blew up around 4:45 p.m.
Jenkins said the force of the explosion about a half a mile away was so great he thought something had fallen onto his truck.
“It rattled the windows and shook the truck,” he said.
Within seconds, Jenkins said, the sky was filled with flames and smoke.
“There was just smoke and flames everywhere,” he said.
Jenkins said he drove to the explosion site and saw that several trees were knocked down by the blast.
He said he watched as golfers ran off the course away from the flames to take shelter in the clubhouse.
“I didn’t think golf carts could drive that fast,” Jenkins said.
His wife, Jael Edgerton, who lives about three miles away in Summit County’s Clinton Township, said she felt the explosion inside their Cleveland-Massillon Road home.
“I heard the rattle,” she said. “I thought something fell in our yard.”
Teens Anthony Miller and Steven Jones said they were longboarding down the hill on Taylor Road when they heard the explosion.
“The next thing we knew the ground shook underneath our feet,” said Miller. “I’ve never heard an explosion that big in my life, ever. The first thing I did was run as fast as I could. I saw black smoke and heard a lady yelling for help in her house across the street.
“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t her house on fire.”
He said the woman thought something hit her house.
“It was like a shotgun went off next to my head,” Jones said. “The first thing I did was I dropped my board and started running. The first thing I saw was a huge cloud of black smoke.”
Fire authorities evacuated the nearby residents.
Ken and Barb Berlin of Taylor Road live right across the street from the wells and were told to leave their home for a few hours.
“We were in the house and we heard a loud sound that shook the house,” Ken said. “We came outside and saw flames 30 feet tall and heard our neighbor yelling across the street that something hit her house. I called 911 and New Franklin showed up under five minutes.”
Berlin said the oil tank wells were put in about three months ago.
“We were just sitting there and then we heard a second rumble. It wasn’t nearly as big as the first one,” he said. “There are two storage tanks over there and the second tank was bulging, the fire departments were squirting water on the second tank trying to keep it cool.”
The couple works in Barberton and said they moved to the country eight years ago for its peacefulness. They say they used to have a “pretty view” before the wells were put in.
Barb Berlin said the sound was horrifying and the explosion shook the house hard, but they haven’t had a chance to check for damage.
“We moved out to the country for a reason,” she said.
An environmental contractor for Dominion was on the scene Friday night draining the remaining oil from the tank.
“After that we will eventually replace the tank and equipment before we can put the wells back into service,” said Neil Durbin, spokesman for Dominion. “They were in the process of hooking up the tanks to our system when some residual oil in one of the tanks caught fire.”
Durbin said the cause of the explosion is puzzling considering welding work at the site was being done 500 feet away from the tank that exploded.
“You don’t usually have sparks 500 feet away catching something on fire,” he said.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.