Careening car shears off gas line

See how first-responders handled this potentially dangerous incident, in the Gateway area …

Fire and police cordon off NE 100th Avenue at NE Glisan Street, while they investigate a broken natural gas line.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Reports of a whistling natural gas line in the Gateway area shut down NE 100th Avenue, between E. Burnside Street and NE Glisan Street, at about 11:00 a.m. on March 9.

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct district officers blocked off intersections and encouraged pedestrians to leave the area, while Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews broke out their “electronic sniffers” to determine how much volatile gas was in the air.

Firefighters confer with residents and NW Natural workers about the broken line, still spewing out gas behind them.

Firefighters told East Portland News that a young man was backing a car into a narrow driveway next to the home at 417 NE 100th Ave. with enough speed to rip the gas meter off its pipes.

People in the area heard the loud whistling sound and smelled the odorant called “mercaptan” – the chemical that gives natural gas that “rotten egg smell”. “It really was whistling loudly,” said a PPB East Precinct officer guarding the area.

Workers take a closer look at the whistling gas line – with the gas meter no where in sight.

“One of the concerns is that the leak is in a relatively narrow space, between the side of the house and the four-story apartment building directly to the north,” a PF&R lieutenant told East Portland News at the scene. “If the gas concentrated, and ignited, it could’ve resulted in an inferno.”

With the broken pipe capped, the potentially explosive situation is over.

But, by monitoring the air quality in the area, firefighters found the gas was sufficiently diffusing, not causing a reason for “immediate concern”.

NW Natural workers arrived on-scene and capped off the pipe; and a potential tragedy was averted. “It’s just another day in the life of a firefighter,” said a Mill Park Station 7 crew member commented, as he walked back to Truck 7.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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