A natural gas leak in the basement of a building in the 400 block of West Washington Street in Oregon prompted emergency personnel to evacuate one full city block on Tuesday as workers from Nicor Gas tried to cap the leak.
A contractor working in the basement of the building at 408 W. Washington St., accidentally cut the gas line.
By late afternoon, the leak had been repaired and residents and businesses were getting back to normal.
“The gas leak has been stooped and they’re venting the building,” Oregon Police Chief Darin DeHaan said at 5:30 p.m. “The good thing is we had a strong wind today so the gas quickly dissipated.”
As the building filled with gas, firefighters asked police to clear the one-block area as a precaution.
Businesses in the 100 block of North Fourth Street (Ill. 2) and 400 block of West Washington (Ill. 64) were also evacuated around 11:28 a.m.
Motorists were detoured around the one-block area and sidewalks were also closed to pedestrians.
Jonathan Champion was upstairs in his apartment with his two dogs at 408 1/2 W. Washington St. when a business operator alerted him to the leak.
“The lady from the antique store came up and told us we needed to be evacuated. I was running around chasing the dogs to get them,” Champion said. “I smelled a little of the gas after she told me there was a gas leak.”
Champion moved his two dogs, Lola and Graham, outside and into his car in the North Fifth Street parking lot as Oregon firefighters waited for workers from Nicor Gas to come and stop the leak.
The first worker for Nicor to arrive tried to find the shut off for the leaking pipe, but could not prompting additional Nicor workers to respond and eventually use a Ditch Witch to find the gas main that services that building.
The Oregon School District was notified by Oregon police of a gas leak in the downtown area.
The district notified all school buildings and the transportation department to plan alternatives routes for transporting students at the end of the day.
“City police are aware of potential student walkers and have the area heavily blocked off to re-route students home,” a press release issued by the school district said.
A Nicor Gas spokesperson said the line was cut by a third party contractor during construction work. She said Nicor received the report at 11:48 a.m.
Oregon Assistant Fire Chief Randy Travis said firefighters were preparing to leave the scene around 5:45 p.m.
However, the Nicor crew would remain there for another 4 to 5 hours, he said, digging to find the line where it enters the building to put a shut-off valve in it.
They had already put in one shut-off valve, stopping the leak.
Travis said the severed gas line was apparently abandoned, but still had gas running through it due to the lack of shut-offs.
(Earleen Hinton contributed to this story)