Lightning strikes plastic gas pipe causing minor flare-up

The portion of plastic gas pipe melted by lightning on Albert Laflamme’s field.

Tom Henihan
Express Staff

During the numerous thunderstorms and heavy downpours the region experienced recently something unusual occurred on Albert Laflamme’s land just outside Falher.

On July 18, while Laflamme and a friend were talking in the feed mill on Laflamme’s property they heard a loud bang. At first they figured that it was a motor that blew out but they then noticed a fire in Laflamme’s field about 150 feet from the door of the feed mill.

What had happened is that a gas pipe was struck by lightning and the heat melted the plastic pipe creating a small hole through which the gas escaped. When the gas reached the surface and had oxygen it ignited with a loud bang.

“It is definitely unusual,” says Dale Dupuis, manager of East Peace Gas Co-op who owns the line. “In our forty years of operation this is our second case of lightening on a plastic line.”

Dupuis explains how the phenomenon on Laflamme’s property can take place.

“When the lightening goes to ground close to the pipe it melts the pipe and that is how you end up with the pinhole. Again, with the proper lightning strike and enough voltage in the lightning bolt it will light the fuel as it comes up to the surface.”

Although the plastic gas line is buried between 36 and 48 inches underground, the tracer wire used to find the pipe is metal and will attract lightning.

“Because it is low pressure on those lines, it usually doesn’t play out to be anything serious,” says Dupuis. “It can happen in the middle of a field but it won’t happen in a yard because in a yard you’ve got buildings that are taller and if going to go to ground, lightning will hit a ground rod or a building because they are up higher.”

Albert Laflamme says that initially he and his friend weren’t sure what was happening.

“At first we thought that the wheat caught fire with the lightening but it is green wheat so it couldn’t have caught fire, so it had to be the gas. Bur they came right away with the backhoe and the fire department also showed up.”

Laflamme says there was only minimal damage and that the East Peace crew worked fast and efficiently.

“It happened maybe around 3.30pm and they came right away. I had to go to town later and when I got back about 6.30pm there was just a guy left leveling the topsoil. There was very little damage, they took just a little strip, they were very careful.”

The escaped gas flaring up when it ignitied on the surface.


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