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Natural Gas Plant Erupts In Flames


WESTMORELAND, Tenn. - Crews responded to a large fire at a propane plant near Westmoreland.

The fire ignited at Columbia Gulf Transmission after a tornado ripped through the area on the border of Macon and Trousdale counties.

The fire is at the compressor station, which "moves the natural gas along our pipeline," said Kelly Merritt, a spokesman for Columbia Gulf Transmission.

Columbia Gulf Transmission operates a 4,200-mile natural gas pipeline across Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana, according to its Web site.

"We will stop the flow of natural gas, as soon as it stops, the natural gas will burn itself out," Merritt said in a telephone interview from Charleston, West Va.

It's not staffed overnight, so no one was working at the facility when the fire started.

Flames are reportedly visible from as far away as 30-40 miles.

Mayor Ricky Woodard said he did not know if anyone was injured or if the fire affected other properties.

Residents in Lebanon and Castalian Springs said they saw smoke in the sky.

Sherry O'Neil, a Smith County resident, said she could also see an "orange sky."

"I don't know what's happening, I just know there's a fire," she said about the fire in near the Macon County community of Green Grove, which is about 40 miles from Nashville.

No word on what caused the fire, although there have been unconfirmed reports that a plane may have crashed in the area.

Officials do not know what caused the fire at the natural gas pumping station.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol said there are an undetermined number of fatalities, according to the Associated Press.

THP spokesman Mike Browning severe storms could have damaged the station

"These flames are shooting 400, 500 feet in the air," said Tennessee Emergency Management spokesman Donnie Smith.

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