Deadly Firestone home explosion caused by gas from cut, abandoned line to well

FIRESTONE, Colo. -- The deadly home explosion in Firestone last month was caused by gas that entered the home through a cut, abandoned flow line from a well, investigators said Tuesday.

The explosion and fire happened about 4:45 p.m. on April 17 in the 6300 block of Twilight Avenue.

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"Investigators have reached the conclusion that the origin and cause of the explosion and subsequent fire that destroyed the Martinez home and damaged the neighboring home resulting in the deaths of Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin and the severe injury to Erin Martinez was unrefined, non-odorized gas that entered the home through a French Drain and Sump Pit due to a cut, abandoned gas flow line attached to an oil and gas well in the vicinity that, while abandoned, had not been disconnected from the wellhead and capped," firefighters said in a statement.

"Officials have also determined that the flow line was controlled with the shut in, or ceasing of production of the well as a precaution taken on April 17 as part of initial response measures, and that no additional contamination or danger exists to neighboring homes."

The uncapped, abandoned line was about 5 feet from the foundation of the home, investigators said.

It's not known who is responsible for the broke line, but neighbors are concerned about what's beneath their own homes.

The Oak Meadows HOA called an emergency meeting Tuesday night. Board members met with members of Anadarko Petroleum, which owned a well less than 200 feet from the Martinez family's home.

On Tuesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper called for a statewide review of existing oil and gas operations.

Anadarko Petroleum later announced the closure of 3,000 vertical wells in northeastern Colorado after the deadly explosion and fire. One of the wells Anadarko shut down was less than 200 feet from the Martinez family's home.

Al Walker, the chairman, president and CEO of Anadarko, issued a statement Tuesday after the cause of the explosion and fire was released.

“I know I speak for everyone at Anadarko when I say that our thoughts and prayers remain with the Martinez and Irwin families as they continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones.

“The safety of our employees and the people who live and work in the communities in which we operate is our number one priority. Consistent with that, and out of an abundance of caution, last week we shut in our vertical wells in the Oak Meadows area and throughout the basin. We hope that doing so also provided some additional reassurance to the community in the wake of this tragic accident.

"We will continue to take all necessary and appropriate steps in that regard, and will continue to cooperate fully with all ongoing investigations to ensure we fully understand the basis for the fire district’s conclusions and that no stone is left unturned prior to any final determinations.

"The company also will continue to work with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) on additional steps or actions the agency deems necessary."

The official death investigation will be turned over to the Firestone Police Department.

Still, residents are concerned about how safe the area is.

"I don't trust anybody right now," resident Fran Hoylman said. "Somebody made a mistake ... that led to this gas getting into their soil and the basement, causing them to die.

"How do I know mistakes aren't going to be made? There are people working, building these apartments."

Erin Martinez is a science teacher at Mountain Range High School. She was taken to a hospital on the day of the explosion in critical condition. Her condition has not been updated. The Martinezes have two children, a boy and a girl.

A neighbor and construction crew working nearby rushed to the scene to get Erin Martinez and a boy out of the home after the explosion. They found Erin Martinez pinned under the collapsed roof.

Erin Martinez's condition has not been updated since the explosion. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Martinez and Irwin families.