The first call didn’t last long.
The voice on the other end was agitated.
“Meet me at the ER,” it blurted out. “We’re all burnt up.”
Lesli Harvey heard people screaming. Her husband, Scott Harvey, was talking. She didn’t understand.
“What is burned?” she asked.
“We are,” he said.
The call died.
Lesli’s boss drove her from their accounting firm to the emergency room at Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital. At the admissions desk, she dialed her husband and then their 19-year-old son.
The calls went straight to voice mail.
She asked the hospital staff if they knew anything about the burn victims at Murphy Dome oil field.
“No, the ambulance is called out on a standby,” they told her.
Lesli’s phone rang again. It was Scott, again.
“Tell them there are three people burnt,” he said.
She heard more wailing. She didn’t recognize the voices.
“Who is burnt?” she asked.
“Me, Bryce and Brody,” he said.
Then the call went dead.
Beyond Thermopolis, over the Big Horn River, past the cattle ranches and open range signs, and well after the paved road ends is Murphy Dome.
Every mile or so is a small building or an oil well, surrounding by sagebrush and rolling hills.
It was routine work July 30 for Scott Harvey and his two employees, son Bryce Harvey and Brody Gillespie.
Scott’s company, S & B’s Oilfield & Excavation, was hired by Legacy Reserves LP to remove sand from a tank inside a building the size of a shed in which oil and water get separated.
S & B’s has done jobs at Murphy Dome for five years.
Pipelines move oil to the building from wells a mile or more away. The guys at S & B’s had no idea how much oil was in the area at the time. But they took precautions.
They wore hard hats, safety glasses, fire-resistant short-sleeved shirts and pants. Scott wore gloves.
Bryce and Gillespie removed tubing from the tank. They saw oil coming from it, which prevents sand removal. They put the tubing back on.
Next there was a spark. A wooshing sound. A bright orange flash.
Flames hit Gillespie with such force, they knocked off his hard hat and safety glasses.
The flames receded briefly until the entire building caught on fire.
Scott ran outside.
He heard the boys’ screams from inside. A Legacy employee told him he was burnt, but he didn’t pay much attention.
“It seemed like forever, waiting for them to come out of the building,” he said.
Scott gunned his black company pickup toward town.
The boys sat behind him, trying not to look at their injuries. Burnt skin had loosened from tissue and bone.
Gillespie’s fingers appeared to be falling off. Bryce watched an outer layer of skin separate from his flesh.
Pain came in intense bursts. The boys screamed with each wave.
Scott was in pain, too. He barreled the truck onward.
“I wasn’t worried about my pain,” he said. “I could see them in pain.”
Eleven miles outside town, Scott spotted an ambulance heading toward them with lights and sirens blaring.
He hit the brakes. The boys hopped into the back of the ambulance. The two medics wanted to attend to the boys. One of the medics quickly examined Scott. Then he asked Scott to drive.
“I just put it in gear and took off,” he said.
Scott and the boys first felt relief when hospital staff sprayed cool water over their burns.
Tubes prevented their throats from swelling shut. Painkillers knocked them out.
Two helicopters and one airplane flew the three to the Western States Burn Center at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo.
Scott, 45, suffered from mostly second-degree burns to his nose, face and arms. He had some smoke damage to his lungs. He was released from the hospital Aug. 4.
Bryce was burnt on 21 percent of his body, including to his neck, arms, left leg, back, cheeks and nose. Most of the burns were second-degree. He left the hospital Aug. 10.
Gillespie had shallow third-degree burns. He received skin grafts on his hands and arms that required 180 staples on his body. He also had second-degree burns on his nose, cheeks, ears and neck. He finally went home Aug. 16.
The Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration classified the July 30 flash fire as a catastrophe because it required hospitalization of at least three workers, agency spokeswoman Hayley Douglass said.
The incident remains under investigation.
Dan Westcott, executive vice president and chief financial officer with Midland, Texas-based Legacy Reserves LP, which owned the property where the fire occurred, said he couldn’t comment until the Wyoming OSHA investigation is complete.
“I think it’s an unfortunate event,” he said. “While they are contractors and they were not under our supervision, we still take safety very seriously at Legacy, and we’re concerned for them. We’re glad it appears they’re improving.”
Scott, who has owned S & B’s by himself or with a partner for the past 15 years, had never had a lost-time accident before July 30.
For a while after the fire, Scott felt guilty and blamed himself for putting his son and Gillespie — who Scott has known since he was a child and considers a son — into the situation in which they got burnt.
“Then I realized it was an accident and it’s nobody’s fault and nobody is to blame,” he said.
Since he’s left the hospital, Gillespie wears spandex and compression gloves to assist with the skin graft healing. He must stay out of the sun for a year.
Scott and Bryce are mostly healed. Their skin still itches from time to time. Scott’s lungs hurt from the medical tubing.
Scott planned to pass his company to his sons, Bryce and Bradyn, who runs the company’s Powell office. Scott even named the company after them – S & B’s stands for Scott and the Boys.
But Bryce still hasn’t decided whether he will return to the oil field. Nor has Gillespie.
“I’d be more cautious for sure,” Gillespie said. “It would be hard to get a lot of work done when trying to always look out.”
Scott wants to get back into the oil field as soon as doctors approve, maybe in four weeks.
Oil field work has provided a good living for his family. It’s what he knows. He’s been doing it since he got out of high school. The chances of another flash fire are rare.
“It was a freak thing,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”