About 75 people were evacuated from multiple stores on Freeman Lane early Monday evening after a large gas main ruptured.
The leak was reported at just after 5:30 p.m. at the Pine Creek Shopping Center, said Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Battalion Chief Jim Turner. The leak reportedly was caused by a 1/4-inch nipple shearing off from the main line.
The smell of natural gas was still pungent, and the hiss of the severed line was audible as of 6:30 p.m.
Firefighters from Grass Valley and Nevada County Consolidated responded to the leak.
Grass Valley Police Department assisted with the evacuation, Turner said.
“We were dispatched to multiple stores in the Freeman Lane area, including JC Penney and The Dollar Store, due to the sound of gas venting and the strong smell of natural gas,” said Consolidated Fire Battalion Chief Jim Turner.
“We evacuated the stores and the upper parking lot, and located the source with a Pacific Gas & Electric representative,” Turner said. “They are now in the process of replacing the (sheared-off pipe) and securing the gas leak.”
Turner estimated at 6:40 p.m. that it would be at least anther 45 minutes before the line was secured.
Drivers were allowed to remove their vehicles from the parking lot once it was determined that the gas levels were not hazardous, he said.
“The thing about natural gas versus propane is that it is lighter than air, so it rises,” Turner said, adding they didn’t have to worry about pooling. “Natural gas mixes with the atmosphere.”
First responders actually turned off their engines when they first arrived due to fear of causing a large explosion.
“It wasn’t at the level where we were concerned about any type of explosion, but we didn’t know that when we got here,” Turner said.
The stores and the parking lot remained off limits, however.
“The leak is large enough if there was an ignition source, it could cause some serious problems,” Turner said.