A gas leak in Mountain View Thursday morning prompted evacuations and road closures in the neighborhood while fire crews worked fast to make sure the natural gas wasn’t pooling in certain areas or traveling underground.
The gas leak was reported just before 8:30 a.m. at Teak and 38th streets. The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department confirmed a large-diameter gas main had broken.
Gas was visibly leaking in what looked like light smoke billowing around the neighborhood. The rotten-egg smell of mercaptan – the additive in gas meant to serve as an alert when there’s a leak – filled the air.
SDFD Battalion Chief Mike Liversedge said when his crews arrived at the scene, the gas was still actively leaking. He knew they had to work quickly.
Liversedge said firefighters began conducting gas readings to determine whether surrounding homes needed to be evacuated. The readings were high, so officials evacuated four homes and a total of eight residents. People inside three additional homes were told to shelter-in-place while officials got a handle on the leak.
Meanwhile, Liversedge said officers with the San Diego Police Department shut down access to the neighborhood, cordoning six square blocks. Crews with San Diego Gas & Electric arrived to assess the leak and try to cap it.
SDG&E crews dug into the ground trying to access the gas line. Just minutes before 11 a.m., the gas leak was capped. The utility company later confirmed the line that broke was a 2-inch main, ruptured by a third party contractor.
Liversedge told NBC 7 Thursday’s overcast weather added a layer of concern for fire crews because these types of conditions create the possibility of gas migrating quickly to other locations.
On a sunny day, Liversedge said gas dissipates a lot more quickly. On a gloomy day like Thursday, however, there’s opportunity for gas to linger and, in his words, “pool in pockets.”
If gas starts pooling and reaches its explosive limit, the battalion chief said that gas can be ready to explode with any little source of ignition.
“That could be from a pilot light from a stove, a pilot light from a water heater, it could be from someone doing yard work – if it gets that ignition source, then it could ignite and spontaneously combust,” he explained.
No one was injured in the gas leak. Liversedge said the roads in the neighborhood would likely be closed for several hours while crews worked to repair the gas line.
By 2:30 p.m., SDG&E officials said all of the residents who had been evacuated were now back in their homes and all of the roads had reopened.