UPDATE: Opal, Wyoming Evacuation Order Lifted…Fire Still Burning
UPDATE 1p.m. Thursday - OPAL, Wyo. — Residents of a small town in southwestern Wyoming are being allowed to return home nearly 22 hours after an explosion at a natural gas processing plant forced their evacuation.
No injuries were reported in the explosion at about 2 p.m. Wednesday in Opal (oh-PAL'). The town of about 95 people about 100 miles northeast of Salt Lake City was evacuated as a precaution against further explosions and smoke.
Lincoln County spokesman Stephen Malik said that the evacuation order was lifted shortly after 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
UPDATE 11 a.m. Thursday - Williams Partners LP spokesman George Angerbauer confirmed today that the fire at their natural gas plant in Opal, Wyoming is still burning. Plant personnel have tried to shut off all sources of gas to feed the fire, but there is a residual supply that is keeping it going for now.
There is no estimate on how long it will take to burn itself out, and that means the 57 residents of the town who were evacuated, will have to stay away awhile longer.
No one was hurt in the fire that followed an explosion on Wednesday.
UPDATE 4:30 a.m. Thursday - OPAL, Wyo. (AP) — Residents and emergency crews are waiting for a fire to burn itself out after an explosion at a natural gas processing plant in a small town in southwestern Wyoming.
No injuries were reported in the explosion Wednesday in Opal, a town of about 95 people. The entire town was evacuated.
Gas from the plant serves a huge number of customers across the West and as far east as Ohio. Officials say the explosion came between the winter heating and summer cooling seasons, when demand is lower.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the blast.
The explosion was reported at about 2 p.m. and the fire burned into the night. It wasn't clear when residents would be allowed to go home.
No structures outside the plant were damaged.
UPDATE 6:28 p.m. Wednesday - Williams Partners LP spokeswoman Michele Swaner said at 6 p.m. the fire was still burning, but posed no threat to other pipelines or tanks.
"Everything has been shut in at this facility, and that means nothing is going on," Swaner said. "There's no operations going on; no gas movement, no gas going in, no gas going out."
The company did not know what happened to cause the fire and explosion about 2 p.m. Mountain Time.
"At that point, the plant was evacuated," Swaner said.
"We have 42 employees, I don't know exactly how many actually were on site at that time, the employees work in shifts," she said. "All are accounted for, no injuries."
The town of Opal itself is about a quarter-mile from the facility, Swaner said. The town has 98 residents. Williams Partners LP is arranging lodging accommodations for them mostly in the Kemmerer and Little America areas.
The facility processes natural gas from wells in the area for preparation into pipelines. Williams Partners LP is among other companies that operate at the major gathering hub at Opal, she said.
"Obviously, that's going to be part of the investigation to determine what happened," she said.
Before employees can return to the site, the company will need to conduct an investigation, she said.
Swaner did not have an dollar estimate of the damage, she added. "I don't want to speculate."
ORIGINAL STORY - Authorities have evacuated the town of Opal in southwestern Wyoming after an afternoon explosion at a gas plant.
Stephanie Harsha with the Wyoming Department of Transportation says several highways have also been closed in the area.
“Per our highway patrol dispatch and the Lincoln County sheriff’s office, there are no injuries currently being reported at this time, and the roads will be closed for an undetermined amount of time.
Harsha says U.S. Highway 30 and Wyoming Highway 240 were closed shortly after 3:20 p.m.
Stephen Malik, a Lincoln County spokesperson, says no structures were affected by the explosion, and the town was evacuated as a precaution. He also says the fire has also been confined to the area of the explosion.
The 95-resident town is about 100 miles east of Salt Lake City and 70 miles west of Rock Springs. The evacuation includes an area 3 miles outside the city limits.
The first report of the explosion was fielded by authorities at around 2 p.m. Wednesday.
We will have additional updates as they become available.
This story contains Associated Press content. Anthony Pollreisz, Roger Gray and Tom Morton contributed to this story.