POLITICS

Saskatchewan residents wait for all-clear after natural gas fire extinguished

10/18/2014 07:28 EDT | Updated 12/18/2014 05:59 EST
PRUDHOMME, Sask. - A fire that burned for almost a week at a natural gas pumping station in Saskatchewan is finally out, but affected residents are still waiting for the all-clear before they can return home.

SaskEnergy spokeswoman Casey MacLeod says the flames at the facility near Prud'homme, northeast of Saskatoon, were extinguished after work began Friday night to replace a damaged wellhead.

But MacLeod says on Sunday the workers will install a plug further down the well to seal it off, and residents won't be permitted to return until that job is completed.

The wellhead leads to one of seven underground caverns used to store natural gas for the winter when demand for heating is greater.

The company has said that an escape of gas on Oct. 11 led to an explosion and fire that damaged the TransGas facility, but there were no injuries.

Four families within two kilometres of the site have been affected by the evacuation.

TransGas is a subsidiary of Crown-owned SaskEnergy.

MacLeod said crews from the Safety Boss, an Alberta company, sprayed foam to quell the flames right before a crane lowered the new wellhead into place.

She explained the new wellhead has a stack on top where the gas could then vent into the air while workers bolted it securely into place.

There is no estimate yet of how much natural gas burned over the past week, but MacLeod said the fire won't cause a shortage in Saskatchewan this winter and won't affect gas prices.

She said there are 26 storage caverns in Saskatchewan, and that prices for natural gas are set in the spring.

The old wellhead will be sent to a lab for examination to determine the cause of the gas escape, MacLeod said.