Flames and smoke could be seen for miles after a natural gas pipeline was struck in Plymouth County.

A spokesperson for Iowa One Call says two recent incidents in western Iowa could have been prevented if workers had only called his organization to get help locating underground utilities.

An underground natural gas pipeline was hit east of Hinton Wednesday, leading to an explosion and injuries to two workers on a trencher.

Last month a fiber optic cable was cut near Orange City and that left thousands of customers in Le Mars without cable, internet and phone services.

Iowa One Call spokesperson, Ben Booth, says their system is set up for “damage prevention, ” and the law requires you to notify Iowa One Call before any digging is done.

“In essence, if you do not call before you dig, you are in violation of this serious law and there are ramifications,” Booth says. He says the state’s top lawyer can take action if you fail to call before digging.

“The Attorney General has the power to investigate and enforce the penalty proceedings under Chapter 480 and that could amount — in a gas line situation — in fines up to a half-a-million dollars. That’s $10,000 dollars per day, per violation all the way up to half-a-million dollars,” Booth explains.

“So you can see, it really is a very, very, serious matter with potentially very serious consequences.” The One Call spokesman says he doesn’t understand why people don’t use the service, especially since it only takes a little pre-planning.

“Here’s the thing, it’s not only a toll-free phone call, the service itself is free. The only thing you have to do is plan 48-hours in advance. You need to notify Iowa Once call at least 48-hours prior to commencing with your excavations or your digging projects. And that does not include Saturdays and Sundays and legal holidays,” according to Booth.

He says no one is exempt from the law, from people digging in backyards to backfields, everyone must call before they dig. The Iowa Attorney General’s office says is looking into the pipeline explosion for possible action.

Another gas line explosion was reported Friday in Jackson County.

By Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars