15 businesses closed after two gas leaks in Raleigh

Investigators

It was a busy day for raleigh firefighters after they had to deal with two unrelated gas leaks— the first on lenoir street—the second at a strip mall in the 1300 block of Capital Blvd. 

Firefighters say it took about 15 minutes to clear the stores in the strip mall after the leak erupted.

It began, as these things usually do, with a digging operation by a contractor.

They were digging between the Jiffy Lube and the Terrymore Square shopping center when they pierced an underground gas line around 1 p.m.

Raleigh Battalion Chief David Whitley said there are immediate precautions they take before the gas line is shut down.

“The main thing is get a perimeter and evacuate businesses close to the spot,” he said.

Officials say 15 businesses were closed for several hours as a result of the leak.

Although there is a danger of natural gas collecting in a building and being ignited— firefighters say they lucked out on this one.

“It’s natural gas – it tends to go up instead of out like propane,” Whitley said. “So we feel a little better about where this occurred it’s on the edge of the wood line.”

The chief says contractors using an excavating machine ripped open the gas line.

“According to the contractor there were markings on the ground. I can’t speak to if they were in the correct place or not,” he said.

After the Durham gas explosion consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia learned that when a line is marked, there is a so-called “tolerance zone” — two feet on either side of that line — and anyone digging has to watch out for that area.

“That zone has to be observed with hand digging until you have exposed and visually see the facility before any mechanized equipment can go inside of that zone,” said Louis Panzer who is the executive director NC811.

Its unknown if the contractor adhered to that hand digging  rule before using the machine.

Last year, Panzer said NC811 handled two million excavation requests.

Despite that, there’s been a spate of gas line breachings in the area recently.

The city says the fire department does not have the authority to issue fines for violations.

However, North Carolina’s Fire Marshal says fire departments can be reimbursed under certain conditions.  

Spokesman Barry Smith says fire departments can charge a contractor if firefighters or hazmat workers are on the scene for an extended period of time.”

He says, “Usually, that means they’re required to be on the scene for more than four hours. 

Smith says the charge is based on the FEMA rate for similar emergency instances.

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