Gas Line Break Forces Hours Of Evacuations In San Jose

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Residents of more than a dozen homes in East San Jose were evacuated for four hours Thursday after PG&E crews accidentally ruptured a plastic natural gas pipe, a utility spokesman said.

PG&E workers were using a backhoe to dig on North Claremont Avenue south of the 3300 block of McKee Road to replace a two-inch plastic natural gas pipe at about 10 a.m., PG&E spokesman Jason King said.

“We were getting ready to tie it in when the crew inadvertently damaged the pipe and caused the leak,” King said.

The San Jose Fire Department responded to the scene and began to evacuate homes in the area, including eight on Claremont and five on McKee, King said.

To stop the flammable gas from continuing to leak out on Claremont, work crews dug separate holes, one six by six feet and one eight by eight feet, to clamp the sides of a four-inch main pipe along McKee, King said.

San Jose police arrived to direct traffic on eastbound and westbound lanes on McKee while PG&E completed its work there, King said.

The fire department got there at about 10:50 a.m. and started moving residents from their homes, San Jose fire Capt. Cleo Doss said.

Neighbors took some of the residents in, while others got into an air-conditioned bus provided by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Doss said.

Firefighters assisted PG&E crews as they worked to cap the leak and sprayed water on the pipe to suppress the escaping gas, Doss said.

San Jose fire switched off circuit breakers on homes near the leak as a precaution to remove any possibly of igniting the gas plume emerging from it, King said.

The evacuation was lifted at about 2:50 p.m., King said.

PG&E crews did not turn the gas back on in the affected homes until crews could enter and relight each resident’s natural gas pilot light, King said.

The mistake comes as PG&E officials appeared in nearby San Carlos earlier today to remind contractors to check where natural gas lines are as part of National Safe Digging Month.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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