Gas leak prompts evacuation of residents

SALEM – About 15 city residents had to be evacuated from their homes in the 1300 block of South Lincoln Avenue Tuesday morning after a city utility crew dug through a gas line, causing a gas leak.

Firefighters were called to the scene in front of 1361 South Lincoln Avenue at 9:06 a.m. and found that city utilities workers were digging up a water line to make repairs and struck a high pressure gas line, breaking the line open.

Capt. Scott Mason said they moved the residents on either side of the street in the area of the leak as a precaution because of the amount of gas released. Residents in one building at the Lincoln Place Apartments spent the time in the clubhouse of the complex and the people in the homes across the street were already on their way out, so they just left. The residents were told they could return to their homes and apartments a little before noon.

According to Mason, representatives of Columbia Gas responded and installed a bypass on the gas line and ran a small line across so homes in the area would not be without gas service, then they went to work to replace the damaged line. Firefighters remained on the scene for a few hours until the gas dissipated.

City Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said the water leak on South Lincoln Avenue was a small one, so they called the gas company the day before to have the gas line marked before they started digging. The city called the Ohio Utilities Protection Service at 12:39 p.m. Monday and told them it was an emergency, which gives the utility two hours to mark the lines.

Weingart said the crew didn’t start digging until Tuesday morning.

“They had more than enough time to mark it,” he said, adding “we assume it just wasn’t marked.”

The utilities department spent most of Tuesday working on another water line break at Southeast Boulevard and Franklin Avenue.