We live only about a mile away from the fire, and the sound was like a jet engine preparing for take-off. After listening for a moment while I sat in my car in our driveway, I'd recognized the sound as a natural gas line leak, and it sounded huge. I followed the sound to find the above scene. If you can see from the picture, there's a Domino's Pizza on the right, and from where I ended up parking, I couldn't tell at first if the Domino's was even still there. It was, but there's a duplex to the right of the fire, past the Domino's, that is on fire. I made my way much closer, ending up close enough that the sound of the fire and the gas rushing out of the line was almost deafening.
This is not a night shot. The fire was so overwhelmingly bright that the camera adjusted the brightness in self-defense. It wasn't until I had taken a couple of pictures that I realized there was a car in the fire, and that someone had died here. You can see the car just to the right of the narrow black upright, otherwise known as a telephone pole.
Nobody saw exactly what happened, but the driver apparently went off the road and hit the gas main. I'm assuming they maybe tried to miss the telephone pole and hit the gas main instead, possibly thinking they were hitting the less dangerous of the two. There was an explosion, and in all likelihood, the driver was killed instantly by the concussion. One man who was on the road about a hundred fifty feet away reported that the explosion knocked his truck sideways.
As far as I know, no one ever identified the driver. The local gas company had no records of where the lines were buried, and spent hours searching for a way to shut the gas off. (The controls were apparently on what the car hit.) After about nine and a half hours in the fire, the driver was so thoroughly cremated that there was no usable DNA to work with. Nobody local ever stepped forward to report their loved one missing. I can't help but wonder if the driver was an out-of-state college student, on their way home for the holidays, whose family has no idea what happened to them.
Be careful out there. No one ever thinks they could die on a simple drive home. Until it happens.