By Brian Focht
2014: Workers digging in Ewing, New Jersey, struck a natural gas line, causing a leak and resultant explosion that killed a resident, injured
seven workers, leveled 11 homes, and caused at least
some damage to all 130 homes in the development.
2016: A gas leak in a basement meter room in a
Silver Spring, Maryland, apartment building caused
an explosion and ensuing fire that killed seven people.
The dead-bolted front door of the apartment directly
above the meter room was blown off and found 300
feet away, across the street in a parking lot.
2017: Workers in Manor Township, Pennsylvania,
were investigating an odor of gas/gas leak outside a
home and excavating a potentially leaking gas line
near the home when an explosion occurred, killing
one worker, injuring three other workers, leveling one
home, and damaging several other homes.
2017: Two workers in Minnesota were removing
existing piping to support the relocation of gas meters
from the basement of a school building to the exterior of the building when a line under pressure was
opened and not able to be shut down. As the building
was being evacuated, an explosion occurred, killing
two school employees and injuring nine other people.
A fire and partial building collapse ensued.
2017: A natural gas explosion is suspected of level-
ing a Nebraska home and damaging more than a
dozen others, causing the death of one occupant and
critically injuring another. The couple were reportedly
blown out of the house.
Firefighters and other emergency personnel routinely respond to emergencies involving natural gas.
Such emergencies include residential fires, odors/leaks
in buildings, damaged gas lines, or—the worst-case
scenario—an explosion with ensuing fire.
Often, emergency responders arrive prior to the
utility company and begin efforts to secure the
scene. A basic knowledge of natural gas and how to
eliminate or control hazards can make an incident run
much more smoothly and, more importantly, ensure
the safety of all personnel on scene. Firefighters must
consider safety for themselves and the community
first and foremost when responding to emergencies
involving natural gas.
ABOUT NATURAL GAS
Predominantly methane, natural gas is colorless;
tasteless; and, in its natural state, odorless. Transmission pipeline and utility companies add a distinctive
odorant (butyl mercaptan) to natural gas so leaks can
be quickly and easily identified. Natural gas is lighter
than air (vapor density < 1) and tends to rise, while
Natural Gas Emergencies
Responding to odors, leaks, fires, and explosions
Firefighters and other
routinely respond to emergencies involving natural
gas. (Photo by Pixabay.)