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City gas line ruptures

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Firefighters spray water at flames coming from a ruptured natural gas line at the construction site of the LongHorn Steakhouse on South Pleasant Valley Road in Winchester on Friday afternoon. No injuries were reported. Washington Gas Co. shut off the line, leaving about 30 businesses without gas until repairs were complete. Alex Bridges/Daily

About 30 South Pleasant Valley Road businesses left without service

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A rupture in a natural gas line left more than two dozen city businesses in a major commercial area without service Friday.

A construction worker on the site of the future LongHorn Steakhouse, 2173 S. Pleasant Valley Road, struck the gas line while using a piece of motorized equipment to dig a trench in the parking lot, according to Winchester Fire and Rescue Capt. Eddie McClelland. A spark then ignited the gas as it leaked out of the rupture, McClelland said at the scene Friday afternoon.

Firefighters received the call at 1:58 p.m., and crews from all four city companies arrived to see flames and bursts of fire rise from the site of the rupture. The flames also had engulfed the trencher machine blamed for the rupture. Firefighters began spraying water on the areas around the blaze to dampen and cool down a track-hoe and pallet-sized packages of stone wrapped in cardboard that could have ignited.

Crews from Washington Gas arrived shortly after the firefighters and requested they stop spraying near the leak to avoid allowing water to enter the gas line. Then the workers shut off the gas, eliminating the fuel for the fire. A few minutes later the blaze died down, and firefighters extinguished the remaining flames. The blaze destroyed the trencher.
No injuries were reported, according to McClelland.

While the blaze remained dangerous -- with an occasional burst of flame leaping from the rupture -- the situation could have been worse.

"The fire at the source of the leak helped," he said. "It prevented a huge problem for us because there was no gas vapor to spread out in the neighborhood."

Had the fumes spread and ignited, a larger fire could have occurred, he said.

Construction workers had evacuated the site by the time McClelland arrived on the scene shortly after dispatchers received the call, he said.

"They did a great job getting out of harm's way," McClelland said.

The last fire crew left the scene at 3:37 p.m., according to emergency dispatchers.
A spokesman for Washington Gas said 6 p.m. Friday he could not estimate when crews would repair the ruptured line and restore service to the customers, which include a number of restaurants along South Pleasant Valley Road near Martin's Food Store.

Crews with the utility were still on the scene working to repair the line, said Ruben E. Rodriguez, director of corporate communications for Washington Gas.

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