Fire and police investigators continue working with Atmos Energy, the hotel’s natural gas provider, to determine whether a gas leak caused the explosion — or conversely — an explosion caused the gas leak.
An explosion that sent shattered glass flying into the streets of downtown Fort Worth and injured 21 likely resulted from the ignition of natural gas, according to Fort Worth Fire Department Chief Jim Davis.
However, investigators have not yet determined an official cause for the Jan. 8 incident, according to reports. The explosion occurred shortly after 3:30 p.m. at the Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel, and presumably originated from a restaurant in the basement. The hotel is located in the historic Waggoner Building, at 810 Houston Street, in Downtown Fort Worth.
According to comments by Fire Chief Davis, fire and police investigators continue working with Atmos Energy, the hotel’s natural gas provider, to determine whether a gas leak caused the explosion — or conversely — an explosion caused the gas leak.
He said no evidence has emerged that the explosion was intentional.
“(Gas) finds the lowest places in buildings, so below street level, the basements,” Davis said. “At this time of year, furnaces kick on, hot water tanks kick on, and if it’s in that flammable range of not too lean and not too rich to burn, then it finds that ignition source, and that is what potentially causes something like this to happen in people’s homes, etc.”
Various agencies have announced their involvement in the ongoing investigation of were otherwise called to the scene. Besides those for Atmos, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Dallas division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called to the scene, according to reports.
A spokesperson for the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, also said an agency inspector arrived on the scene and was working with local authorities. The agency enforces safety regulations for Atmos, although it does not have jurisdiction over the gas pipelines within the hotel, according to an agency spokeswoman.
Investigators likely have examined the pressure regulation devices on the property’s gas meter, according to R. Don Deaver, a pipeline safety expert who spoke recently to media outlets. He explained that such regulation devices lower line pressure to make gas safe for use inside buildings. But “if you get any dirt or debris or rust caught into it, the valve is not going to close and squeeze down to drop that pressure,” he said.
Older buildings like the Sandman hotel, which, according to reports, opened in 1920, typically experience more rust issues because they are operating with older pipes and infrastructure, Deaver said.