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Broken gas line sparks Serrano fire

By From page A1 | July 31, 2013

A contractor working on Gresham Drive Friday morning broke a half-inch gas line, resulting in a fire that burned a tractor and the home’s front lawn

The fire was originally reported as a machinery fire at 10:19 a.m., said El Dorado Hills Fire Battalion Chief Mike Lilienthal. When fire crews arrived, the encountered “thick, black smoke” due to burning rubber; manzanita and grass in the front yard of 4367 Gresham Drive was also burning, according to Lilienthal.

A contractor broke the gas line while trenching to install a French drain, said PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno. And underground service alert had “expired for this location.”

PG&E’s main contractor Brault Asphalt had removed concrete where marks had been, Moreno said. The contractors were “supposed to call 811, an underground alert for contractors. Marks do wear off or get covered with mud.”

Two subcontractors from Central Valley Engineering and Asphalt manned the tractor when the gas line was hit, one drove while the other stood next to the auger, Lilienthal said. “Neither were seriously harmed,” but fire erupted around both of them. They were able to jump out of the way but as a precaution the driver’s employer sent him to a physician to be evaluated.

Surrounding neighbors were evacuated while PG&E employees dug up a front yard across the street to gain access to the gas line. Homeowner Karrie Kinsella watered the lawn while crews worked in her yard. She joked that it took four workers digging a small hole to get the job done.

To stop the leak crews using special vice grips squeezed line to close it off, Moreno said. Contractors are supposed to call 811 two business days in advance, he reiterated. They are supposed to mark off the area they will be working in and then utility company workers — gas, electric, phone, water, sewer — will mark off their lines so they will know where the contractor will have to hand-dig.

As firefighters waited for the gas line to be pinched just before noon, they could only watch as small flames shot out of the ground. The tractor had since been charred and all flammable fuels consumed, leaving a small pile of ash underneath the tractor; the remaining fire was just the gas  burning.

The flames had been 1o to 15 feet high, said homeowner Pillip Collier. He said he was “happy with the response” of the fire department, agreeing it could have been worse than burning his front lawn.

Cole Mayer


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