The tragedy in Hidalgo was foreshadowed in Yucatan last summer.
Two of seven alleged fuel thieves were killed in July 2018 when they accidentally blew up a pipeline they were attempting to tap.
The firefighters managed to control the flames with the support of paramedics and state police, which controlled nearby traffic.
One fatality was a minor-league baseball player who apparently had a sideline working with what are known as huachicoleros, bands of brazen fuel thieves.
Friday’s explosion in Hidalgo killed 21 and badly injured over 70. Villagers had surrounded a ruptured pipeline hoping to acquire gasoline.
Gas has been hard to obtain in several areas of Mexico since the president has shut down several fuel lines in an attempt to crack down on fuel thefts.
Illegal taps into pipelines happened a reported 12,581 times in the first 10 months of 2018, an average of about 42 per day.