(credit: KTVT/KTXA)

(credit: KTVT/KTXA)

MILFORD (CBSDFW.COM) – Hundreds of families in Milford still cannot return to their homes on Friday after a pipeline explosion on Thursday forced an evacuation of the entire North Texas city. A shelter was set up for residents in nearby Italy, where some evacuees stayed overnight in a high school.

The explosion occurred when transmission lines which move liquid petroleum, or natural gas, were hit while a five-person construction crew was doing excavation work at the site. First responders in the Ellis County city determined that it was best to let the fire burn. The exact cause of the explosion is still not known.

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The pipeline is owned by Chevron. The company’s area manager, Jim Barnum, said that officials did the right thing by evacuating all of the people within a mile and a half of the explosion site. Barnum explained why, even after pressure in the line was shut off, the flames continued to burn. “The liquid that remains in there — it’s often called boiling off — it’s going from a liquid to a vapor stage. It’s going to whatever this leak or hole is and it’s coming out as a gas, because it’s at atmospheric conditions,” he said, “and there’s a fire there which is consuming the product.”

There has been a sense of relief that nobody was killed or even injured by the explosion. But still, the people who were evacuated do not know when they will be allowed back into their homes. According to an assistant fire marshall, some residents will be escorted back on Friday, but only to pick up essential items before leaving again.

The evacuation order is still in effect because Chevron is still working in the area. Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency were in Milford on Thursday and found no major issues with the air quality.

Residents of Milford said that they felt the explosion when it happened. Alice Jacinto struggled to stay collected as her grandson helped her out of her wheelchair and into her car. “I tried to be cool and calm, and not let anyone know how scared I was,” she said. “There you are. You’re supposed to be the strong one that never falls apart, but you’re shaking inside.”

John Bauer lives about a mile and a half away from the explosion site, and he was outside when it happened. “It was a soft boom,” said Bauer, “like a muffled boom. And that’s when I seen the mushroom cloud come up.”

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Bauer lives next door to a police officer, and added that evacuations started very quickly. “They didn’t give us any time,” he said.

The American Red Cross set up a temporary shelter at Italy High School, but most of those who evacuated stayed with friends or family members. Only 35 people registered to stay at the high school, according to Anita Foster with the American Red Cross.

I can’t tell you how much we at Chevron regret that an incident on our pipeline has caused that to happen,” said Barnum.

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