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A lightning strike caused an explosion, fire and release at the Helling Saltwater Disposal Well about three miles south of Alexander on Monday. Submitted photo by Karolin Rockvoy, McKenzie County Emergency Services.

Lightning causes fire, spill

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News Dickinson,North Dakota 58602
Lightning causes fire, spill
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

ALEXANDER— A lightning strike Monday afternoon caused an explosion, fire and spill at an oilfield site in McKenzie County in western North Dakota.


McKenzie County Emergency Manager Jerry Samuelson said the strike occurred at 5 p.m. at the Helling Saltwater Disposal Well off U.S. Highway 85, three miles south of Alexander.

As of 7 p.m., the fire was still burning with no injuries reported.

“There are 11 tanks: nine saltwater and two oil. All of the tanks are destroyed,” he said.

More than 2,000 barrels of saltwater were released as well as 167 barrels of oil. One of the oil tanks was completely destroyed, the other — charred, but still standing — contains 230 barrels of oil, Samuelson said.

Alexander Fire Department initially responded to the incident, he said. However, policy stipulates that no one is allowed on site until a company representative arrives to monitor an emergency response.

“We’re letting it burn out, we don’t want people to get hurt,” he said.

Samuelson said payloaders were at the site building berms to try to contain the saltwater release.

He said McKenzie County sees one or two lightning strikes per year.

“This is very common when you’ve got fiberglass tanks — a lot of static electricity.”

It is not known how much saltwater was released offsite.