Lightning Leaves Street in Flames From Gas Main

Lightning Leaves Street in Flames From Gas Main

A gas flame shooting up from the street and a downed 13,000-volt power line were the ingredients in an unusual incident in the Township of Cranford, N.J., that required the cooperative efforts of the fire and police departments and the power and gas companies to control.

The incident was triggered when lightning struck a heavy tree limb that fell across the 13,000-volt power line, which in turn fell to the street about 5:45 p.m. last June 21. A call to the Cranford Fire Department indicated that the power line was arcing furiously. As Engine 4 was dispatched with a captain and two men, the dispatcher also notified the power company.

Flame shoots from street

Upon arrival, the men on Engine 4 saw the power line arcing over a repaired area in the macadam street.

Within minutes, and before the arrival of the power company, the situation changed dramatically. A huge flame shot from the pavement to a height estimated at 15 to 20 feet, indicating that there was a gas leak in the area. The gas company, which was notified of this added problem, sent a work crew which set out to check all houses and sewer lines.

As the power company removed the downed line, the fire department and the gas company coordinated plans to extinguish the fire and locate the source of the leak as quickly as possible. It was decided to use two 1 1/2inch fog lines, which served the dual purpose of extinguishing the fire and cooling the pavement.

Fog disperses gas

The fog lines were also used during the digging operation to disperse escaping gas and further cool the working area.

It was later determined that an unusual set of circumstances placed the power line in a position to ground itself to the 6-inch low-pressure gas main. The arcing line burned a 2-inch hole in the gas main 3½ feet underground, allowing gas to escape through the repaired roadbed. The gas was then ignited by the arcing power line.

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