MILFORD Milford residents will not be allowed back into their homes Friday night as Chevron works to tap out a fire at one of its gas lines that is still burning 24 hours after it began.

At about 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, maintenance crews working on the line noticed a gas vapor coming from it, said Jim Barnum, Chevron's general manager of operations. Soon, the 10-inch line blew, sending a huge plume of fire and smoke into the air.

All but about two residents were evacuated following the explosion, said Mark Jackson, chief of the Milford Volunteer Fire Department. On Friday, the fire is still burning but is significantly reduced. Chevron employees tested the air quality in the town overnight and found it to be normal.

Ellis County deputies are escorting residents to their homes to retrieve small pets and medications that were left behind. Homeowners will likely not be allowed back into the city without an escort before Saturday, Barnum said.

'We request that our citizens be patient. We are doing everything we can,' Jackson said. 'We'll get you back into Milford as soon as it is safe to do so.'

Two crews are stationed outside the 1.5-mile evacuation area, Barnum said. They're allowing the product in the 10-inch pipe to burn off. A neighboring 14-inch pipe also has liquefied propane gas flowing through it. Soon, the crews will de-pressurize that pipe and retrieve the product by pumping nitrogen down the line.

'We will literally burn the product and try to take it out of that line,' Barnum said.

He estimates it will be late in the afternoon before this process is complete.

'I don't see that people should be planning on returning to their homes tonight,' Barnum added.

Residents wishing to retrieve pets or belongings from their home that were left when the city was evacuated can sign up at The Dome in Italy, the gym of the high school. Nobody has been injured due to the explosion.

'Our absolute, No. 1 goal is to make sure nobody gets hurt,' Barnum said. 'We're extremely thankful that this far in the process that nobody has been hurt.'

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