News

Well fire spectacle to be over this week


Remains of drill rig still visible as roaring inferno belches flames. 
Courtesy photo Remains of drill rig still visible as roaring inferno belches flames. Courtesy photo Milam County has had a new “landmark” for about a week

An oil-gas well blew out early Sunday morning and a crew of specialized firefighters are hoping to douse it by this weekend, ending the towering plume of black smoke that’s been visible over several counties. since Saturday.

Firef ighters f rom Milano, Rockdale and Black Jack, plus emergency responders from Burleson County and the Milam County Sheriff’s Department, were called to the Polzer No. 1 Well, off County Road 328, about five miles south of Milano, at 1:50 a.m. Saturday.

Sheriff David Greene said on Monday Slawson Exploration, which owns the well rig, has briefed his department, and area residents, on their strategy for dousing the spectacular blaze.

“It’s going to water, and just water,” Greene said. “Slawson wants to assure area residents that no explosives are being used.”

PUMPS—Greene said the plan of attack is to first clear all debris away from the well head.

Boots and Coots Services of Houston, a division of Halliburton, will then utilize two massive water pumps, which are rated at around 2,000 gallons per minute.

“ The huge amount of water being put on the well head should be enough to put out the fire and allow the teams to cap off the well, keeping the fire from reigniting,” he said.

LEGENDA RY—Boots and Coots is a legendary oil well firefighting firm.

It was founded in 1978 by Asger “Boots” Hansen and Owen “Coots” Matthews, who were trained by the famed firefighter Paul “Red” Adair.

John Wayne’s character in the movie “Hellfighters” was based on Adair.

Current president of Boots and Coots is Jerry Winchester, former defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys.

SPECTACLE—“The volunteer firefighters did an outstanding job keeping the blaze contained to the area around the platform Saturday morning,” Chief Deputy Sheriff Chris White said.

The blaze sent black smoke belching thousands of feet into the sky and has been visible from much of Milam and Burleson counties.

Level ground sightings have been reported as far as 30 miles away and the fire has been featured on national television.

PROBE—White said 11 Slawson employees of Slawson Exploration were on the drilling platform when the blowout occurred and all escaped. White said the rig was set up Oct. 14.

According to the Texas Railr oad Commission, Slawson Exploration had a permit to drill a 10,000-foot oil and gas well.

Boots & Coots Services arrived at the scene at daybreak to begin fighting the fire.

“Damages are already estimated at several million dollars,” White said.

White said the fire does not appear to have caused any damage, not pose a threat to, surrounding properties.

V IGIL A NCE—The Milano Volunteer Department kept a round-the-clock eye on the scene for more than 24 hours and at mid-week public access is still limited to County Road 328.

Slawson Exploration issued a press release noting that in 54 years of oil and gas exploration the company had never sustained a serious rig fire until now.


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2011-10-27 digital edition



The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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