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Gas line fire leads to evacuations

SHADYSIDE — Jefferson Elementary School and numerous nearby homes were evacuated Tuesday morning following a gas line fire.

A homeowner performing excavation work outside their home struck a gas line around 10 a.m. on Kennedy Lane, according to Shadyside Fire Chief David Lenz. As a result, the excavator and the gas line caught fire.

As a precaution, the fire department immediately evacuated numerous homes located along the lane, along with the elementary school located on Jefferson Ave.

“The Jefferson (Elementary) School is one street down from where the fire was, so being in such close proximity to where it was we thought the best thing to do was to have them evacuate,” Lenz said.

Elementary school students were taken by bus to the high school where they were later dismissed for the day. Shadyside Schools Superintendent John Haskell did not immediately return calls for an interview regarding the evacuation. It is unclear whether students will return to normal classes today.

Lenz said firefighters let the fire burn until Columbia Gas arrived on scene. Once on scene, the gas company was able to locate the valve and safely shut off the gas line. The flames were completely distinguished by noon, allowing residents who were evacuated to return to their homes, he said. Columbia Gas will now repair the damaged gas line.

Lenz said there were no injuries or damage to nearby properties. The only property damaged in the fire were the gas line and the excavator.

“Fortunately there wasn’t an explosion and nobody got hurt — that’s the most important thing,” he added.

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