Chattanooga (TN) Firefighters Respond to Gas Fire

By Bruce Garner

It’s not uncommon for workers to accidentally rupture buried gas lines on construction sites, but the incidents are usually resolved without much fanfare. That was not the case, however, at a recent fire that Chattanooga (TN) firefighters responded to.

Shortly before 10:00 Wednesday, a construction crew accidentally broke into a buried natural gas line at the corner of Browns Ferry Road and Patten Chapel Road. The gas that escaped from the line found an ignition source and burst into flames. Fortunately, the workers were not injured, and as they cleared the scene they called 911.

The firefighters used hand-held hoselines and master streams from the fire trucks to keep the fire under control.

The Chattanooga Fire Department responded with several fire companies and the hazmat team. With flames shooting up to 20 feet high, Tactical Services Chief Danny Hague said the decision was made to close Browns Ferry Road and evacuate a nearby motel, America’s Best Value Inn and Suites.

As they have done on similar incidents, the decision was made to allow the fire to continue to burn until technicians with the Chattanooga Gas Company could shut the gas off. Chief Hague said putting the fire out before the gas is shut off is even more dangerous, because the leaking gas can build up again and find another ignition source, resulting in another fire or even an explosion. Once on the scene, gas company technicians found a shut off valve and cut off the supply of gas. The fire quickly died out on its own at 10:47 a.m.

Technicians with the Chattanooga Gas Company talk with Captain David Tallent (in blue uniform) before going in and shutting off the gas.

When the fire first erupted, the flames burned through the electric service line going to a nearby business, Hood Van Lines. Live power lines presented an extra hazard for the firefighters until technicians with EPB arrived to cut power to the line. That line served an area down along Browns Ferry Road, so when the power was cut, it affected a number of homes and Lookout Valley public schools. EPB restored power to the area within a couple of hours.

Chattanooga police and Hamilton County EMS also provided valuable assistance on the scene. As the firefighters walked back to their fire trucks to clear the scene, onlookers spontaneously offered a round of applause to thank them for their efforts.

This gas-fed fire was mitigated without incident, unlike two high-profile gas-related emergencies: a purported natural gas explosion leveled two buildings in East Harlem in New York City, killing at least seven people, while one person was killed at a gas explosion earlier this month in Ewing Township, New Jersey.

Once the gas was shut off and the fire died out, the firefighters continued to wet down the area to cool everything off.

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