On June 10, 1999, a gasoline pipeline owned by the Olympic Pipe Line Company ruptured in the city of Bellingham, Washington. It discharged approximately 277,000 gallons of gasoline into Hanna Creek and subsequently into Whatcom Creek, a three- to four-mile long coastal stream which runs through a city park, residential neighborhoods, and urban industrial areas before emptying into Bellingham Bay. As the gasoline was carried down the creek, the fumes were ignited, causing three human deaths and impacting a variety of natural resources along the creek’s path. It was like a river of fire running right through the city, and the children playing in the creek at the time didn't have a chance.

Evidence suggests that the Olympic Pipe Line Company was aware of the rupture up to twenty-four hours before the explosion; reports were filed by several individuals stating that an "orange-colored, smelly film" was floating on top of the water in Whatcom Creek. No warning was issued and no statement was made, and the shockwave of the explosion echoed throughout the city.

I was walking away from my apartment when the explosion occurred. I looked up into the sky and saw a great black cloud hovering over the Whatcom Falls Park area, out near my girlfriend's parents' house, in the middle of a clear blue sky. I remember thinking that such a thunderhead in a clear sky was rather odd, when my friend Byron pulled up in his car -- he was delivering pizzas -- rolled down his window, and shouted "Hey Bjorn, the town is exploding!" and drove off.


Looked at the sky again.

Oh. The town is exploding.

And I broke into a run.

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