Gas Leak Forced Evacuation in Charlottesville

By: Autria Godfrey
By: Autria Godfrey

December 12, 2006

Private contractors, using heavy equipment just off High street, struck a gas line around 9:30 Tuesday morning, leaving fire crews with a unique problem --- a high pressure leak being fed from two different directions.

"It means it's a little more complicated to stop. It's not an easy thing to cap at one end and take care of it like we usually do," Charlottesville Fire Chief Charles Werner said.

When fire crews arrived, the level of gas in the air had reached the point of explosive, causing over 200 people to be evacuated from seven different buildings.

"We have meters that tell us when it's between those explosive ranges and whenever we detect anything within that explosive range that's when we have to evacuate people," Werner continued.

Children from a couple of daycares were taken to a different location, while employees of the buildings were given holding areas.

"They were very kind though in bringing school buses and a city bus in if anybody wanted to go sit inside and stay warm," Rebecca Fitzgerald, an evacuee, said.

In just under an hour, the gas flow was stopped. Once the levels were no longer dangerous, streets and buildings were reopened.

"They were extraordinarily efficient, handled it very, very well. We were back up here in no time," Fitzgerald continued.

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