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Gas Line Rupture Leads To Evacuation Of Fairfield Hills Campus



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Precautionary evacuations took place on Thursday, February 29, throughout Fairfield Hills, after a 2-inch gas line was breached shortly after 8 am during water line work at the Town-owned campus.

The break occurred on Primrose Street between Newtown Municipal Center and Newtown Community/Senior Center.

Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue was first on the scene, with Chief Anthony Capozziello initially in command. Newtown Hook & Ladder as well as Botsford Fire Rescue were also dispatched to the scene.

Hook & Ladder Second Assistant Chief Jason Shuttleworth took command upon his arrival.

First Selectman Jeff Capeci confirmed workers "were doing excavating for the water line, and they hit the gas" line. Capeci also confirmed that the municipal center, NYA Sports & Fitness Center, and community/senior center buildings were totally evacuated due to "precautionary" measures.

One workman was overheard describing the damage as a "6-inch hole" in the gas pipeline. The roar of gas escaping the pipe into the air was indeed audible from a few hundred feet away.

Emergency Communications Center Director Maureen Will issued a CodeRED alert to residents, informing them the Fairfield Hills Campus was off limits due to potential risks associated with gas exposure.

Newtown PD Lieutenant Smith issued a statement mid-morning, saying "Police and fire are on scene, and they are working to take care of the issue. Please stay away from the campus until further notice.”

Police vehicles closed both entrances of the campus, as pedestrian and automotive traffic alike was deterred from entering its perimeter. The only vehicles that were permitted entrance were Eversource crew and first responders.

At 9:10 am, Lieutenant Smith informed residents that "the gas line is no longer actively leaking at this time but the campus remains closed," adding "there have not been any reported injuries."

Capeci said Eversource responded swiftly and appropriately to the situation as it unfolded.

"They came out for an emergency response and reacted and corrected a situation that was outside of their control. In my view they performed very well yesterday," he told The Newtown Bee March 1.

"The contractor for the water line project is culpable for the gas line break," the first selectman added.

By 10:35, the campus was reopened, and the police department was no longer on the scene. Smith explained that "repairs to the gas line will continue to take place."

The municipal center reopened at 1:42 pm. NYA Sports & Fitness Center also reopened by the afternoon.

Calls to Public Works, Office of the Fire Marshal, and Eversource for additional information and comment have not yet been returned.


Reporter Owen Tanzer can be reached at owen@thebee.com.

Newtown Public Works employees set up a Road Closed sign at the main entrance to Fairfield Hills on February 29 after a ruptured gas line led to the evacuation of the Town-owned campus for nearly 2½ hours. —Bee Photos, Tanzer
A Newtown Hook & Ladder firefighters begins to dress a hydrant on Primrose Street after responding to the gas main break Thursday morning. Three local fire companies were dispatched to the emergency.
Workmen gather to discuss the appropriate response to a 6-inch gash in a 2-inch gas main Thursday morning.
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