US Gas Plant Explodes and Rocks Small Town, Major Evacuations Underway

Saturday, a fire broke out at a gas facility in Medford, Oklahoma, requiring the closure of local roadways and the evacuation of nearby people.

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According to the 2020 census, Medford has a population of 932 and is located around 79.2 miles from Wichita, Kansas.

Prior to the blaze, there were unsubstantiated allegations of an explosion at the natural gas fractionation complex.

In gas processing facilities, fractionation is the separation of natural gas hydrocarbon mixtures into products such as ethane, propane, butane, pentanes, and natural gasoline.

NBC News noted, however, that it is questionable whether an explosion triggered the fire.

ONEOK, a natural gas liquids firm, operated the plant.

Following the commencement of the fire, city officials in Medford asked all residents within a two-mile radius of the facility to evacuate immediately.

The Medford Public School, the Blackwell Hotel, the Wakita Fire Department, the Hawley Church, and the Jefferson United Methodist Church opened their doors to individuals who sought refuge from the tragedy.

The Grant County Sheriff’s Office issued a caution to motorists, telling them to avoid U.S. Highway 81 in and around Medford.

Saturday, the sheriff’s office also revealed that ONEOK had arranged for evacuated individuals to stay in numerous motels in Enid, which is approximately 33.7 miles from Medford. The hotels included Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Springhill Suites, LaQuinta, and Baymont, according to the sheriff’s office.

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Effective midnight on Sunday, city authorities issued a Mayoral Executive Order extending the evacuation order for residents living south of State Highway 11 to 12:00 p.m. on Sunday.

“Our focus continues working with emergency responders to extinguish the fire and the safety of the surrounding community and our employees,” ONEOK said in a statement shared with CBS News.

ONEOK was “unaware of any injuries,” the corporation said in the statement, according to the outlet.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the explosion, KWCH-DT reported.

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News of the ONEOK fire comes as the nation faces high gas prices, although the prices have been coming down in the past few weeks, according to AAA data.

A series of fires hit U.S. food processing facilities earlier this year, raising concerns that the attacks could be arson intended to hurt U.S. food supply amid global food insecurity due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Fact-checkers, however, have dismissed such concerns as conspiracy theories.