AUSTIN – Authorities now say a natural gas drilling rig fire that started April 1 in Village Creek State Park near Lumberton should be put out by April 16, if they are able to relieve pressure so they can safely cap the well head and complete other steps as expected.
Before dawn Monday, part of the rig structure collapsed. That caused the flame to shrink to about one tenth its previous size. The plume of flame had been as tall as 150 feet high in early days, but since Monday it has shrunk to around 15 feet high.
Oil field firefighting experts with Boots and Coots have drilled two water wells and are completing a larger third and final well to support the firefighting effort. They and rig operator Choice Exploration have begun to remove equipment debris from the perimeter of the rig site, located in a remote area about 2.5 miles southeast of the park headquarters.
On Tuesday, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department scientists began evaluating natural resource impacts associated with the fire. The team met with the staff at the state park and also with Boots and Coots and Choice Exploration representatives. They went around the perimeter of the fire site and investigated some of the burned area north of the rig. They recorded GPS data points and took photographs along the perimeter.
TPWD will assess damages to plants, wildlife and other natural resources, as well as any historic or cultural resources, and work with the responsible party to restore the affected area, a process expected to take about a year.
The incident caused a wildfire that burned about 50 acres around the rig. The area included mostly brush but also some longleaf pine seedlings that had been recently planted in an effort to restore trees lost to Hurricane Rita in 2005.
The state park remains open to the public for business as usual, except that the park’s Water Oak Trail and associated Yaupon Loop Trail nearest to the fire location are closed to the public until the fire is put out.