Cigarette lighter may have caused oil well fire that burned two men

ARNEGARD, N.D. – A cigarette lighter may have caused a fire at an oil well site Wednesday near here that seriously burned two men,  a spokesman for the company that owned the well said.

Two men were seriously burned in what the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office called an oil well explosion that was reported at 12:05 p.m. Wednesday.

Bruce Ford, 52, and Rod Law, 48, were working at the well owned by Statoil and were badly burned, the sheriff’s office said.

They were taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center in Williston and then flown to the burn center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Ford was in fair condition Thursday and Law was in critical condition, a hospital spokesman said.

The men worked for Mitchell’s Oil Field Service as subcontractors for Statoil, said Statoil spokesman Ola Aanestad.

A human resources representative with Mitchell’s Oil Field Service, based in Sidney, Mont., declined to comment.

Ford and Law were doing maintenance near an oil tank at the well site about 50 miles south of Williston, Aanestad said.

A preliminary investigation shows that a cigarette lighter was being used near the tank and it caused vapors or fumes to catch fire, Aanestad said.

However, company officials will continue to investigate what caused the flash fire, Aanestad said.

“That is what the preliminary investigation is suggesting,” Aanestad said. “We don’t want to jump to any conclusions when it comes to causes.”

Harold Larson, chief of the Arnegard Fire Department, said the fire was out when he arrived on scene and he didn’t have information about what caused it.

At least one other worker was on the location but was not near the fire and was not hurt, Aanestad said.

The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources had a district supervisor on location Thursday investigating what led to the fire, said spokeswoman Alison Ritter.

Statoil representatives met with about 400 contractors Thursday to discuss the accident and reinforce safety protocols, Aanestad said.

“We take this seriously, and of course our main concern now is that we hope that these two individuals will recover and get back in good health,” Aanestad said.

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