Tillsonburg gas scare: Swift evacuation after London explosion

An early-morning gas leak in Tillsonburg, caused by a lightning strike, prompted fire officials to evacuate 60 homes as a precaution. No injuries were reported, and residents began returning home early Sunday, though much of the area remained closed and gas was shut off to 125 homes. Pictured, Tillsonburg deputy fire chief Tony Hietkamp walked in the Kara Lane neighbourhood shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday, as officials worked to pinpoint the gas leak. Kathleen Saylors/Postmedia Network

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When lightning strikes, you get out, especially if there’s gas in the air.

When it happens days after the massive London explosion that consumed part of a street, making headlines around the world, you go even faster.

An area of Tillsonburg containing about 60 homes was evacuated early Sunday after lightning zapped a tree down to its roots, severing a natural gas line and leaving a lawn on fire with the smell of gas in the air.

“It looked like a barbecue, it almost resembled that,” deputy fire chief Tony Hietkamp said of the area around the tree that firefighters found burning on Kara Lane.

“It was bubbling up from the lawn,” he said.

Firefighters quickly evacuated the area.

While some were hesitant to leave their homes so early, just after 3 a.m., Hietkamp said memories were fresh about last week’s explosion in London’s Old East Village after a car crashed into a house and severed a gas line before the fireball that followed, a blast that ultimately destroyed three homes and damaged others. Seven people were injured.

“A lot of people moved quick,” Hietkamp said.

No one was hurt in Tillsonburg, and natural gas service was cut off to 125 homes to allow repairs.

Gas distributor Embridge said the lightning strike travelled through a tree root and damaged the gas line, something spokesperson Andrea Stass called “a very unusual occurrence.”

Residents were able to return to their homes later Sunday.

 

 

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