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Live Wires And Gas Line Leak A Bad Combination On Windy Day

Published: October 26, 2017 at 12:00 am

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Hook & Ladder firefighters Milton Adams, left, and Jason Rivera are on site as a gas line leak ignited by fallen electrical wires is contained.  (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
Hook & Ladder firefighters Milton Adams, left, and Jason Rivera are on site as a gas line leak ignited by fallen electrical wires is contained. (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
Flames from a ruptured natural gas line shot upward about 30 feet near Cedar Hill Road on the morning of Tuesday, October 24. Residents within a 1,000-foot radius of the fire were informed to evacuate through the town's Code Red emergency…
Flames from a ruptured natural gas line shot upward about 30 feet near Cedar Hill Road on the morning of Tuesday, October 24. Residents within a 1,000-foot radius of the fire were informed to evacuate through the town's Code Red emergency notification system. (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
NOTE: This story has been updated and expanded from a story first reported on Tuesday, October 24, 2017.

 

Ten Newtown Hook & Ladder and Botsford Fire Rescue volunteer firefighters responded at about 8:34 am on Tuesday, October 24, to a report of a brush fire in the area near 53 Cedar Hill Road.

While fire companies often respond to brush fires, this incident was unusual because that brush fire was apparently caused by a high-energy primary electric line that had fallen onto the street after having been hit by swaying tree branches during windy conditions.

Even more unusual was that a natural gas line leak then occurred and ignited, causing undulating flaming bursts of pressurized natural gas to jet upward 30 feet into the air. There were no injuries in the incident.

"This was unique," said Hook & Ladder First Assistant Chief Jason Rivera, who served as incident commander on the fire call.

After arriving at the scene, firefighters called Eversource to report the downed electric lines so that technicians could be sent to deenergize those lines, Mr Rivera said. While standing by at the scene, firefighters then noticed the odor of gas and discovered gas leaking upward from beneath the street, he said. The asphalt on the street had been damaged by the fallen live electric line.

The pressurized gas escaping upward from beneath the street, by some means, then caught fire, Mr Rivera said. A four-inch-diameter Eversource gas line runs beneath the street to serve customers along Cedar Hill Road.

Fortunately, the fire did not occur near any houses. The fire damaged vegetation in an about 10,000-square-foot area that lies along both sides of the street, Mr Rivera said.

When considering the hazards posed by the situation, Mr Rivera ordered that all people within a 1,000-foot radius of the incident be evacuated. The town's Code Red emergency notification system sent out messages to that effect to about 55 homes at about 9 am. Residents were allowed to return to their homes about noon.

Newtown police and the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps were called in to aid with the evacuation.
The section of Cedar Hill Road near the incident was closed to through-traffic during the incident, reopening at about 12:30 pm.

Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said October 24 that the incident resulted in 120 natural gas customers and 76 electric customers losing their service. Those electric customers had their service restored by 3 pm that day, he said.

Restoring gas service is more complex, requiring that technicians do a safety check and reignite pilot lights in individual buildings. As of 3 pm on October 25, Eversource was waiting to hear back from 12 gas customers, Mr Gross said. Those customers may contact Eversource at 877-944-5325 to schedule a technician's visit, he said.

Mr Gross said that no definitive cause has been determined for the gas leak.

Newtown Bee Associate Editor Shannon Hicks contributed to the reporting of this story.

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This Week's Poll

Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

“In The Bag” exhibition, on view to September 28
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The Lords of 52nd Street concert, September 14
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Newtown Arts Festival weekend, September 15-16
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“An Evening of the Arts,” September 15
50% (2 votes)
“The Fox on the Fairway” production by Town Players of Newtown, weekends September 21-October 13
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“The Main Street Replica Project,” launching September 25
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Someday Cinema Series screenings of “The Blues Brothers,” September 30
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Photography display “In Our Rearview Mirror” by Marleen Cafarelli, et al, October 1-30
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“Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb” with Tinky Weisblat, October 3
25% (1 vote)
Newtown Day, October 6
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The 3rd Annual Newtown-Sandy Hook Restaurant Week, October 8-14
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Basket weaving workshop with Tina Puckett, October 13
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“Courageous Conversations in A Complex World,” October 17
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Live at ETH: David Wax Museum concert, October 19
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The 2nd Annual Fall Carnival at Fairfield Hills, October 19-21
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Connecticut Author’s Reading Series, October 21
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Natalie’s Open Mic, October 21
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“The Wordsmiths,” October 24
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Pianist Konstanza Chernov, October 28
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Someday Cinema Series double feature screenings of “Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Beast with Five Fingers,” October 29
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Total votes: 4