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Oakland Underground Gas Fire Put Out After Scorching Ground For Hours

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An underground vault fire in Oakland. (CBS)

An underground vault fire in Oakland. (CBS)

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OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Crews were mopping up Tuesday afternoon at the scene of an underground gas fire in the Oakland hills that prompted the evacuation of six homes before it was put out shortly before noon.

The one-alarm fire was reported at Golf Links Road and Fontaine Street at 8:24 a.m., Oakland fire Battalion Chief Lisa Baker said.

PG&E crews were on scene digging into the asphalt to repair the natural gas line underground, she said.

Six homes were evacuated, and residents of other homes nearby were advised to shelter in place, Baker said. No injuries were reported.

James Gouig, 36, who lives at that intersection with his cousin, said he was at home Tuesday morning when he heard a knock at the front door.

At first he was annoyed because he thought it was a salesperson, he said. However, the person at the door turned out to be a neighbor telling him his front lawn was on fire.

He looked out and saw fire burning in an odd formation that consisted of straight lines, he said.

“It didn’t look right, so I called 911,” he said.

Gouig said it was a scary experience.

“I started thinking about the San Bruno situation and I started freaking out,” he said, referring to the September 2010 underground pipeline explosion that killed eight people in that city.

He said his next thought was what to grab from his home before fleeing; he ended up just taking his iPhone.

Gouig told his story to reporters as he waited to be let back into his home, dressed in sweats and sandals in the chilly morning air.

Initially, he said, he didn’t know what was going on and was getting information from friends and family members who were watching the situation unfold on TV.

Battalion Chief Baker said the pressure in the pipeline that ruptured Tuesday was 50 pounds per square inch—much less than the nearly 400 pounds per square inch of pressure in the San Bruno pipe that burst.

PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord reiterated that there was “much less pressure” involved in today’s incident. She also said the San Bruno pipeline was 36 inches in diameter.

She said it took a while to put the fire out because the pipe is located 6 feet underground and crews were shoring up the sides of a trench PG&E workers will use to make the repairs.

Gas service has been shut off to some nearby homes, she said.

The intersection is a few blocks away from Interstate Highway 580 near Holy Redeemer College. An employee at the college said operations were normal and no evacuations were ordered at the campus.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. )

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