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Gas pipeline explodes in northwestern Minnesota

A gas explosion took place Monday morning near of Warren, in northwestern Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of Marshall County Sheriff’s Office / Forum News Service)

WARREN, Minn. — Fred and Julie Nicholls woke up early Monday morning to a loud booming sound and the feeling of their house shaking.

“We’d just woken up when all of a sudden it just hit,” said Fred Nicholls, 73. “I’d never heard nothin’ like it in my life. It was just hell on Earth, I tell ya, when you see those flames.”

His home is about a mile away from where an underground gas line ruptured, causing an explosion and large fire at 6:25 a.m. about three miles northwest of Warren.

The fire, which was extinguished in about two hours, resulted in some homes being evacuated and will leave hundreds of people without gas service for a couple of days, according to Viking Gas Transmission Co., which owns the pipeline.

Witnesses described the blaze as “a big ball of fire shooting into the air.”

“You couldn’t stare at it too long. It was like looking at the sun,” said Jason Bowman, chief deputy with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.

No one was injured.

Residents within a two-mile radius were evacuated but allowed back into their homes Monday afternoon, Bowman said.

About 675 customers in Warren will be without gas while Viking officials investigate the explosion, said spokeswoman Megan Washbourne.

According to the company’s website, Viking connects with major pipeline systems — Trans Canada, Northern Natural, Great Lakes Transmission and ANR — to serve markets in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The company is based in Eagan, Minn.

By mid-Monday afternoon, Viking’s website said some customers in Warren, Argyle and Thief River Falls, Minn., were affected.

Viking is unsure of what caused the explosion, and it is under investigation, Washbourne said.

The gas line that ruptured runs from Emerson, Manitoba, to Marshfield, Wis., she said.

Charly Haley

Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.