Eaglebend apartment fire extinguished, residents allowed to return to homes
More than two dozen people were forced from their homes Wednesday morning when a ruptured gas line sparked a fire in their Avon apartment complex.
Tracy LeClair, a public information officer with the Eagle River Fire Protection District, said a skid steer was working on some playground equipment in the Eaglebend apartments when it hit a gas line.
Twenty-nine residents in the adjacent buildings were evacuated to a Salvation Army shelter, where they waited until around noon for crews from Xcel Energy to pinch off the line and extinguish the blaze.
No one was injured, no other damage was reported and firefighters found no gas in any of the buildings, LeClair said.
“It was in just the right spot so it did not cause any damage to the buildings. You could not ask for a better outcome,” LeClair said.
Propane heaters sparked it
The contractor working on the playground equipment called to report that the line had been hit immediately after it happened, around about 10 a.m.
The workers had propane heaters warming and softening the ground where they were working during Wednesday’s frigid morning temperatures. When the line was ruptured, the gas escaping from the line hit the flame on the propane heaters and caught fire.
That actually worked to everyone’s advantage. No one had to contend with a cloud of expanding gas. The flame kept it contained, the way gas is contained in an off-burn on an oil rig, LeClair said.
“It’s actually safer to have it on fire than to have the threat of an explosion,” LeClair said.
All firefighters had to worry about was heat on the adjacent buildings. Firefighters doused the building exteriors, as well as the skid steer, to help keep them cool.
Eaglebend residents were allowed back in their homes at around 2 p.m. Wednesday. Xcel was estimating it would be another two hours after that to get the heat back on.
An on-site childcare center was among the buildings evacuated, although none of the children were in any danger, LeClair said.
The fire district praised the teamwork with the Avon Police Department and the town of Avon, which provided buses to move the residents to the Salvation Army’s evacuation center.
“Xcel Energy natural gas crews were on the scene this morning when a contractor hit a natural gas line in Avon, Colorado,” Xcel’s Michelle Aguayo said in an emailed statement. “They were able to quickly and safely shut off natural gas to the line and begin repairs. Those repairs were completed by 1:30 p.m. Safety is a priority at Xcel Energy and we work closely with authorities to make sure customers and our workers are safe.”
For downvalley humans, it’s pretty cool when elk decide to hunker down around Eagle for the winter. For the elk, it’s more of a lesser-of-two-evils situation.