Many of the residents evacuated after Sunday morning’s gas leak in Tillsonburg are now able to return home, according to an update from Tillsonburg Fire Rescue Sunday morning, but gas remains off for 125 homes in the area.
Enbridge Gas was on scene at Kara Lane Sunday to pinpoint the location or locations of the leaks, deputy fire Chief Tony Hietkamp said to the Sentinel-Review early Sunday morning.
Hietkamp stressed there were no injuries reported and residents were evacuated successfully.
An Enbridge spokesperson said Sunday morning that 125 homes were without gas while the repair was completed. According to Enbridge, lightning struck a tree, travelling down through a root and damaged the pipeline.
“This is a very unusual occurrence,” said Andrea Stass.
Enbridge Gas – formerly Union Gas before a recent merger – said there is no estimate for when service might be restored but residents can find updates on Twitter at @EnbridgeGas.
As of Sunday evening, there was no update indicating that gas service had been restored.
“Once the pipeline is fixed, our trained representatives will need to enter all affected homes to safely turn on the natural gas equipment. All have identification,” Stass said. “We ask customers, for their safety, not to attempt to relight their own gas equipment.”
Hietkamp said when the department received the call for a lightning strike, they arrived on scene to find a three-metre radius around a tree on Kara Lane burning.
“It looked like a barbecue; it almost resembled that,” Hietkamp said of the appearance of the fire on the lawn. “It was bubbling up from the lawn.”
That was the first clue that something was wrong; Hietkamp said there was also the odour of natural gas, so they began evacuations, starting with the immediate homes and then widening the area.
While there was some hesitation for people to leave their homes so early in the morning, the memory of last week’s natural gas explosion in London’s Old East Village neighbourhood was fresh, so “a lot of people moved quick,” Hietkamp said.
“Gas was shut off to a large area because of the potential for explosions,” said Hietkamp, noting that information from last week’s response helped inform firefighters Sunday morning.
Tillsonburg called in the South-West Oxford Fire Department for mutual aid in getting people out of their homes quickly, Hietkamp said.
The wait for service restoration hinges on the need to pinpoint the location of the leak. Hietkamp said this situation has been seen before, where lightning will travel in wire, touching and “popping holes” in the gas line.
Now, Hietkamp urged patience for residents who are without gas as representatives pinpoint the leak and visit each home to turn on the gas.
According to the original Facebook Live update from Oxford County OPP and Tillsonburg Fire Rescue early Sunday morning, the evacuation was prompted by a lightning strike at 57 Kara Lane around 3 a.m. It was determined a natural gas line had been severed, prompting the evacuations.
According to Tillsonburg Fire Rescue, natural gas was shut off to the area around 5:30 a.m. and shortly after, natural gas was determined to be at a safe level. An evacuation centre was opened for residents at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.
In an update shortly before 7 a.m., Tillsonburg’s deputy fire chief said residents were slowly being allowed to return home to grab pets, medications and other essentials, but were not returning home to stay pending the all-clear from Union Gas, who are on scene.
Natural gas filled several homes and sewers in the area, which causes the threat to public safety.
Const. Ed Sanchuk of the Oxford County OPP outlined several road closures in a Facebook Live early Sunday morning, and said gas will be shut off to the area for 12 to 14 hours, though police did not give a timeframe for when people would be allowed to return home.