Dominion shuts down Fairport Harbor facility after January gas fires

FAIRPORT HARBOR, Ohio - Dominion East Ohio has made several changes following the January fires and explosions in Fairport Harbor.

On the morning on Jan. 24, about 15 houses, mostly on High Street North, experienced fires that were blamed on a natural gas build up.

The entire village was evacuated, as fire departments from all over the area responded to Fairport Harbor to help. Twenty people were displaced and four homes were destroyed, but there were no major injuries reported.

On Friday, Dominion East Ohio released a report of steps they have taken since then. While more than a thousand homes were inspected after the fires, the company has since examined about 500 stations. According to the company, they have stopped using the Fairport Harbor facility and redesigned other units that are similar. Dominion found that only seven of the company's 2,400 stations were like the one in Fairport Harbor.

"I thought somebody was snow blowing," Dana Kirk said in January about the noise coming from her gas heater. "Next thing I know there's three foot flames shooting out."

"The safety of our customers is our top priority," said Anne Bomar, Dominion East Ohio's senior vice president and general manager, in a news release on Friday. "Our review has included examination of nearly 500 stations on our gas distribution system as well as testing of equipment by outside experts. Based on that work, we have taken the appropriate measures required to resolve the issue and avoid a potential recurrence."

That information is consistent with preliminary reports from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that show ice build up inside two gas pressure regulator valves prevented the valves from working including a back up valve. That led to a build up of natural gas pressure inside some homes.

The company also plans to continue installing remote monitoring equipment on nearly 300 low-pressure regulating stations.

Dominion East Ohio filed a report with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration that said "the presence of pipeline fluids and gas temperature drop across the regulators caused the regulators to malfunction."

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