Capitol Coverage: State Reacts to Oil and Gas Explosion

State and local officials are working to ensure the safety of residents living near a home in a small town that exploded last week killing two men. The home was about 200 feet from an active oil and gas well. Now all the wells in the vicinity, and thousands across Colorado, have been shut down as a precaution. Bente Birkeland reports.


The explosion took place April 17 in Firestone, a small town about 30 miles north of Denver. Matt Lepore heads the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry. “There is no immediate threat to the environment or public safety associated with oil and gas operations in the neighborhood,” Lepore stated.

Lepore told reporters Thursday that the state still doesn’t know what caused the explosion. Anadarko Petroleum, Colorado’s largest oil and gas producer operates the well, which is part of the investigation. The company shut down 3,000 more wells in northeastern Colorado as a precaution and is inspecting them. The home was built less than 200 feet from an existing well. Mark Martinez and his brother in law Joseph Irwin were killed. Erin Martinez was badly burned in the blast. I’m Bente Birkeland at the state capitol.

Previous Explosions:

February 2005: A trailer home exploded at Bondad Hill (La Plata County). An investigation found that methane gas in a coal-bed seam probably traveled through a historic (pre-law) well buried under the house.

April 2007: A house under construction in Las Animas County exploded, injuring three workers and destroying the home. An initial investigation suggested the source of explosion was methane from nearby outcropping coal beds. Cause was later determined to be an improperly plugged coalbed methane well, atop which the house had been built.