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Gas line explosion

Flames from an exploded gas line 12 miles north of Maquoketa, Iowa, reach at least 50 feet in the air. MidAmerican Energy crews were on the scene Friday evening. (Kevin E. Schmidt/Quad-City Times)

LaMOTTE, Iowa --- A gas line was ruptured, sending flames shooting into the sky, when a tiling plow hit it Friday in a farm field in northern Jackson County.

Joe Kilburg, LaMotte fire chief, said flames went 100 feet into the air after a plow pulled out the gas line at 4:34 p.m. at the Wayne Althoff farm at 25553 216th Ave., about four miles southwest of LaMotte.

Don Kunde, a Preston contractor, was using tractors to put in some tile in a field, Kilburg said. The plow, which goes about 4 feet deep into the ground, hit a 16-inch gas line and the two tractors pulling the plow pulled the gas line out of the ground. The two men driving the tractors escaped without injury.

Kilburg said Kunde told him he was unaware there were gas lines in the area.

“The flames could be seen for miles around,” Kilburg said. “Once the gas line was cut, it immediately ignited.”

MidAmerican Energy crews arrived about two hours after the explosion and shut down the lines in Maquoketa and Dubuque and the fire burned itself out just after 7 p.m., Kilburg said. He said MidAmerican crews will now begin work to repair the line. LaMotte firefighters will remain on scene during the repair work.

“There were 20 acres of cornfield burned around it. We called in Andrew Fire Department for manpower,” Kilburg said. “We contained the field fire and then just kept it under control until MidAmerican arrived. We wanted to make sure we were protecting other properties in the area. There was nothing else we could do.”

Kilburg said this is the largest gas line fire he has seen since he’s been chief.

Earlier this week, two men were injured in a gas explosion when their trenching equipment struck a Northern Natural Gas pipeline near Hinton in northwest Iowa.

Christopher Derocher, 33, of LeMars and Jacob Brown, 28, of Sioux City were taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City. Derocher was released while Brown was listed in fair condition after the incident.

The two were working on a farm field drainage tile using excavating equipment when the pipeline was struck and burst, sending flames hundreds of feet high about 2 p.m. Wednesday. A Northern Natural gas spokesman says pipeline valves were shut off on either side of the break to stop the leak and fire. Repairs were under way and customers did not lose gas service, he said.

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