Friday, November 6, 2009

Huge, but not that huge

The fire created by the natural gas explosion around 1 a.m. Thursday in Bushland was no doubt a huge inferno. I saw it around 1:30 a.m. and it was a sight to behold.

But I took issue and still take issue that flames were 700 feet high. That was pretty much the standard line repeated in media reports Thursday. So if you repeat it enough, people take it as fact.

Granted, I did not get there at the time of the explosion, but there's no way flames were that high. I got a little criticism from some because I doubted the fire was that high, but I stand by that. I don't think people realize when talking vertical distance how high up is up, if you will.

A total of 700 feet is nearly 2 1/2 football fields straight up. That's a long way. Take a look at this photo. There appears to be a telephone pole at the left. How high is a telephone pole, 40 feet max? That would more than 17 telephone poles high -- and then some -- to reach 700 feet.

Put it another way. A standard story in a building is approximately 12 feet. So 700 feet is more than a 58-story building. The Chase Tower in downtown Amarillo is 31 stories. Are you trying to tell me that flames leaped nearly twice the height of Amarillo's tallest building? There's no way.

That doesn't mean it wasn't a huge explosive fire, but for the sake of accuracy, it wasn't 700 feet high.

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