FIRESTONE, Colo. — The Firestone town manager says his community is “deeply disappointed” in a recent investigative report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board in which the NTSB says local authorities contributed to a deadly home explosion in 2017.
“The Town believes the reference to local authorities is a non-sequitur that only distracts from what should be a focus on learning and applying important lessons,” A.J. Krieger, the town manager, wrote in an email to the FOX31 Problem Solvers.
The NTSB report found improperly abandoned oil and gas pipelines that were likely severed during the home’s construction led to the blast that killed two men and badly burned one woman. The ignition of fugitive natural gas that had migrated from a nearby well through a pipeline was the probable cause, the NTSB report found.
“Contributing to the accident was the approval by local authorities to allow occupied structures to be built on land adjacent to or previously part of oil and gas production fields without complete documentation from the operator,” the report said.
On Friday, a spokesperson for NTSB confirmed “local authorities” referred to the Town of Firestone, “which approved land development plans made by St-Firestone, LLC, the land developer of the neighborhood involved.”
Krieger said the town is already moving forward with changes to its land development code, which, he said, will include enhanced requirements for oil and gas regulations.
“These more stringent regulations will not just focus on siting and pre-development activities, but also on the post-production life cycle and inspections,” he said. “We believe the best path forward requires combining updated regulations with ongoing inspections. The Firestone Board of Trustees is committed to the safety and security of its residents as their highest priority.”
Meanwhile, the FOX31 Problem Solvers obtained hundreds of new photographs that were part of the Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District’s investigation into the deadly explosion that killed Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law, Joey Martinez.
The images were never released due to the ongoing federal investigation.
They show blackened appliances, including the charred water heater believed to be the one installed by Martinez and Irwin just prior to the explosion.
Newly released investigative files showed investigators proposed four hypotheses for the cause of the blast, including weather, the possibility that a human started it, that it was the result of domestic natural gas, or that it was caused by non-odorized production natural gas from an oil and gas well near the residence.
However, the fire report shows investigators found a “possible leak” associated with a pipeline just three days into their investigation and that “explosive levels of gas were still being detected in the ground,” near the home more than a week after the blast.