By Jim Newell
Investigators are still working to determine the cause of a pipeline rupture that created a massive explosion and fire off Brown Road a little more than a week ago.
Debra Dodd, media relations for Consumers Energy, said results of the investigation should be in sometime in December.
“The investigation regarding what caused this Consumers Energy pipeline rupture is still ongoing. We did remove the affected section of pipeline on Nov. 24 while a representative from the Michigan Public Service Commission was onsite. This pipeline is currently undergoing metallurgical testing to try and determine why it failed. We expect to have some more information to share in about a month,” Dodd said.
An explosion rocked the south end of Orion Township Nov. 20 when a buried natural gas main in the 700 block of Brown road ruptured shortly before 10 p.m. Minutes later, a plume of fire and smoke billowed into the night sky, visible from miles away.
Witnesses as far north as Waldon Road reported they felt the ground rumble when the explosion occurred and heard what sounded “like a jet engine.”
Orion Township firefighters arrived at the scene and reported a gas leak about 1,000 feet north of the Checkers restaurant in an undeveloped stretch of land, said fire department spokesperson Lt. Chris Hagan.
Brown Road was immediately shut down and Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies and emergency crews from other fire departments providing mutual aid began closing off the road and evacuating nearby businesses and homes along Judah Road as a precaution.
“Consumers Energy representatives stated the rupture was from a 22-inch natural gas line traveling parallel with Brown Rd. The gas line following the rupture created a crater approximately 20 feet deep and 30 feet in diameter. Consumers Energy located two valves
for shutdown at Joslyn and Brown Roads and the second at Maybee and Dixie Highway,” Hagan said.
“Gas was shut off to the Brown Road main around 11:40 p.m. Fire crews then advanced hose lines near the rupture area to begin extinguishing exposures including multiple construction utility trailers that were on fire.”
Flames shot 150 feet into the air and fire damaged trees and vegetation hundreds of feet in all directions.
Fire crews remained on scene for several hours extinguishing brush fires and cleared the scene around 4 a.m. but returned shortly before 8:30 a.m. the next day to douse flare-ups, Hagan said.
No one was injured throughout the incident and there was little property damage. According to Consumers Energy, residential gas supply was not affected with the rupture or the closure of the valves to the main.
All four of Orion Township’s fire stations responded to the fire.
Fire departments from Waterford, Independence Township and Auburn Hills provided mutual aid support on scene, while the Brandon Township Fire Department covered the west side of Orion Township and the Oxford Fire Department covered the east side. Oakland Township’s Fire Department also assisted.