Firefighters shut down Highway 16 and evacuated several stores because of a natural gas leak at 7-11 last week Tuesday. The line was punctured by an excavator and the results could have been catastrophic

Natural gas leak closes High 16 and evacuates stores

Firefighters shut down the highway and evacuated several stores because of a natural gas leak at 7-11 last week Tuesday.

Firefighters shut down the highway and evacuated several stores because of a natural gas leak at 7-11 last week Tuesday.

Fire captain Perry Slaney says an excavator was digging a hole for the new diesel tanks at 7-11 and he punctured the natural gas feeder line to the 7-11 store.

“It could be catastrophic,” Slaney said.

“With a spark, we could have had a major explosion.

“You never know what’s going to happen or how much gas is coming out there.

“We weren’t sure at the time when it happened whether it was the main line or the feeder line.

“That’s why we ended up shutting down the Highway for an hour and evacuating 7-11, Pleasant Valley Restaurant and the surrounding area,” he said.

Slaney says they were called in at 3:30 p.m. and when the 11 firefighters arrived on scene they immediately shut down Tweedie Avenue at the crosswalk by 14th Street West.

“We just did what you usually do whenever you get a gas leak: you clear the area, eliminate all the ignition sources, and keep people away,” Slaney said.

Slaney says after that there wasn’t much more they could do except wait for Pacific Northern Gas (PNG) to arrive from Smithers and deal with the leak, which was under the ground.

He says they decided to shut down the highway because of the small of the natural gas.

“There was no wind yesterday so it was just sitting there, so we shut down the highway just as a precaution.

“If gas starts to settle around, the someone can drive along and throw a cigarette out or set off a spark from a backfire or anything like that.

“Mostly we just wanted to keep the ignition source away, because if you do get a spark it’s ‘Boom!’

“Better to be safe than sorry – that’s the way we look at it,” he said.

Slaney says that PNG arrived after an hour, determined it was the feeder line and not the main line, and clamped off the leak.

“Once we determined it was the feeder line, that’s when we reopened the highway again,” Slaney said.

Slaney says that after that, PNG got a detector and did a few tests to see how far the fumes had spread, and they repaired the line within half an hour.

Slaney says that an hour and half after they’d received the call, the situation was back to normal and firefighters pulled out.

Slaney reminds the public that when they see emergency vehicles, they should not try to come and see what is happening.

“When people see emergency vehicles, [they should] stay away. They are there for a reason,” he said.