About 15 families near the DeSoto Parish town of Frierson will not be home for the holidays. They've been evacuated following a gas well explosion and fire on Stonewall-Frierson Road near Highway 175.
The explosion rocked the area around 8:30 p. m. Sunday. Shortly thereafter, flames shot up as high as 300-400 feet into the air, according to residents. The fire could be seen from as far away as Interstate 49 in Shreveport. People nearby compared the sound of the explosion to thunder.
"We just heard a loud bang in the house," said Melea Gauntt, who along with her family, had to leave her home. "We had a friend coming over and he said there was a fire right down the road. So I ran outside and looked and saw that the derrick was on fire."
DeSoto Parish sheriff's deputies and firefighters responded to the scene. They were joined later by hazardous materials teams from Bossier City, Spring Hill and Alexandria.
Investigators say the rig that exploded belongs to Winchester Productions. Preliminary reports are that workers drilling at a natural gas site may have hit a gas pocket, triggering the explosion. No one was injured in the incident.
However, personnel with the sheriff's office told KSLA News 12 Monday morning that it could be 2-3 days before the situation can be brought under control. In the meantime, emergency workers are helping people keep their distance.
"Just letting it burn out right now 'til the professionals that deal with this sort of incident come here," said Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle. "We're just gonna keep people back and try to keep everybody safe."
The professionals include a crew that Winchester Productions is reportedly bringing in from Lafayette, LA. There's no word on when those workers will arrive.
In the meantime, Stonewall-Frierson Road will remain closed.
Stay tuned to this website and KSLA News 12 for further updates on this story.
Story by Katrina Webber with additional reporting by Ben Wolf