Excavation Punctures Gas Line, Sparks Fire in Berkeley

The fire damaged only the exterior of the houses.

Tuesday, Mar 12, 2013  |  Updated 5:47 PM PDT
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This was the scene in Berkeley Tuesday afternoon.

This was the scene in Berkeley Tuesday afternoon.

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Fire officials were called to a home in Berkeley Tuesday afternoon after an excavation punctured a gas line and sparked a fire, according to fire officials.

The fire was visible between two homes near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Delaware Street a little after 3 p.m.

Flames shot to the roof line and appeared to scorch the outside of both homes. A utility van that was parked between the homes was heavily damaged by the flames, according to fire personnel on the scene.

PG&E crews were on the scene at 3:30 p.m. attempting to cap the leak, as were fire crews.

Foam could be seen in the backyard of at least two homes.

Fire crews continued to spray water and/or foam on the open gas line between the two homes as late at 3:50 p.m, but the fire was extinguished quickly thereafter.

PG&E  reportedly had difficulty accessing the line that had been punctured, so crews dug a hole to  reach the line and finally shut off the flow of gas and stopped the fire at  3:58 p.m.

Only two homes were evacuated, according to fire officials, but the people who lived there were going to be allowed back inside by nightfall.

Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb told Bay City News the gas pipeline was allowed to burn because it was safer  to allow the gas to burn than risk having it escape into nearby houses and  vehicles where it could create an explosion risk.

PG&E spokesman Jason King said the homeowner had hired a day  laborer to do sewer work on the property but the worker did not call PG&E to  find out where the underground gas lines were before digging.

The contractor ended up hitting the line with a pick, puncturing  it and igniting the gas, possibly through sparks created by striking metal,  King said.

King said it is important that anyone doing any kind of  underground work call 811 to check on the location of PG&E gas lines to avoid  accidents that could risk lives and property.
   
The good news is that no one was hurt.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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