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Woonsocket residents evacuated after contractors strike pipe

November 14, 2013

WOONSOCKET – Residents were evacuated from a one-block area of Lincoln Street for about an hour Thursday after a contractor struck and ruptured a natural gas line, according to utility and fire officials.

Police sealed off roads into the area as firefighters from Woonsocket and Blackstone went door-to-door to evacuate those residents who were home at the time the call came in at 10:45 a.m., according to Deputy Fire Chief Paul Shatraw.

Lincoln Street is located off of Front Street, and upon arrival firefighters quickly set up a staging area at the corner of Lincoln and Parker streets.

Approximately 25 residents from 15 tenement houses were evacuated during the response, Shatraw said.

An elderly bedridden woman, however, remained in her home during the incident and was sheltered in place by firefighters who monitored the outside of her building.

The displaced residents were offered temporary shelter at Woonsocket Fire Station #1 on Providence Street, but all of them made other arrangements until they were given the all-clear by police to return to the neighborhood around 11:30 a.m., Shatraw said.

Because natural gas will explode when exposed to flame or sparks, a situation like the one that occurred yesterday is considered extremely dangerous, the chief said.

“Whenever we have a gas leak like this we evacuate residents from their homes as a precaution,” he said.

The rupture occurred when a contractor who was doing excavation work to locate a water and sewer disconnect in the back yard of a home damaged by fire struck a 1.5-inch low-pressure gas line, causing gas to flow freely.

“It can get confusing with older properties like this, especially when the utilities run through common areas,” said Shatraw.

The gas leak was under control within a half-hour and National Grid crews were able to make repairs and restore gas service to the neighborhood.

(Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7)

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