Gas leaks force evacuation of big boxes |

Gas leaks force evacuation of big boxes

J.K. Perry
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyThe Wal-Mart Superstore was closed Tuesday after gas pipes on the roof broke under the weight of excessive snow. The Home Depot next door also closed.

AVON ” Gas leaks on the roof of Wal-Mart and Home Depot caused an evacuation of the two big-box stores Wednesday morning for fear a concentration of natural gas in either building could ignite, fire officials said.

As employees and customers streamed out of Wal-Mart, gas seemed to waver in the late morning air above the store parking lots.

The weight of the nearly recording-setting snow fall this year broke gas pipes in the heating system atop the building, said Carol Mulson, deputy chief of the Eagle River Fire Protection District. The first report of gas leaks came over a week ago, Mulson said.

Sources said Wal-Mart also was evacuated on Saturday.

“The skiing is good, but this is the other side,” Mulson said.

Mulson said she doubted the stores would open Wednesday evening. She added “We’ll get them open as soon as possible.” The pipes must be uncovered, inspected, repaired and then pressure tested before the stores can open.

Firefighters said the roof, which was covered with 72 pounds of snow per square foot, can bear 75 pounds for each foot. There was little, if any, snow removal done on either building this year, Mulson said.

Wednesday afternoon an army of shovelers were atop the buildings removing snow as shoppers were turned away from their errands.

“The fire department is doing a wonderful job and I appreciate the way they are protecting the public,” said Chris Lubbers, who came to Wal-Mart to grab a bite to eat.

Wal-Mart was partially evacuated Saturday night when an air-conditioner on the roof caught fire. A worker who was on the roof measuring the depth of the snow noticed the fire, authorities said.

Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14622, or

Vail, Colorado

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