At least 15 people were injured, with 11 people hospitalized when a large gas pipeline exploded at the Fresno County Sheriff’s gun range, shooting flames over 100 feet into the sky on Friday, April 17th. According to authorities, the pipeline exploded while a worker in a front-loader was constructing a dirt berm to prevent bullets from escaping the range around 2:30 p.m. The front-loader operator and 10 nearby county jail inmates who were working on cleanup were injured in the explosion.
Pacific Gas and Electric had marked the location of nearby gas lines in the construction zones. The driver of the front-loader, a public works employee, had been working on-site all day prior to the explosion. According to authorities, the employee and 10 inmates were hospitalized, three inmates were evaluated and returned to jail, and two sheriff deputies were treated for ringing ears and exposure to the explosion.
Three of the injured were in critical condition at Community Regional Medical Center’s burn and trauma unit. An addition patient at the burn unit was listed in serious condition. Four victims were taken to St. Agnes Hospital and three other victims were taken to Madera Community Hospital.
The resulting two-alarm fire closed Highway 99 for three hours and closed a nearby train track out of caution. Authorities continue to investigate the explosion.