Gas leak prompts evacuation in West End | AspenTimes.com

Gas leak prompts evacuation in West End

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Ryan Slabaugh / The Aspen TimesAn Aspen Volunteer Fire Department firefighter moves down a hall at the Red Brick Building as part of a house-and-commercial building evacuation process in a four-block area of the West End between North Mill and South Garmisch streets, south of Bleeker Street in the West End. The evacuation was prompted by a gas leak. No explosions or injuries related to the leak had occurred as of 1:30 p.m.

Three blocks in Aspen’s West End neighborhood were evacuated Friday afternoon due to a leak of a natural gas line leading to a house in the 200 block of East Hallam Street.

The area where Aspen Volunteer Fire Department and Aspen Police Department personnel evacuated homes and other buildings stretched from North Mill to North Garmisch streets, between East Bleeker and East Hallam streets, authorities said. Many residents received Reverse 911 phone calls that alerted them to the incident, said deputy fire chief Rick Balantine.

No explosions occurred and no one was seriously injured, Balantine said. An individual affected by the gas fumes did not need to be transported to Aspen Valley Hospital, he said.

The Red Brick Building on East Hallam, which houses city department offices as well as Aspen Public Radio and the Aspen Writers Foundation, was the scene of a few tense moments when the incident occurred at about 1 p.m. A yoga class was under way at the time.

Firefighters and other emergency personnel shouted to the occupants inside as well as curious bystanders in the neighborhood to leave the area quickly by moving to areas south of Bleeker Street. Some of the streets closest to the leak were closed to traffic.

Authorities evacuated 14 classrooms of children at the Yellow Brick Building on North Garmisch, said Shirley Ritter, director of the city’s Kids First program. The building serves as the site for three separate learning and child-care programs.

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The children were taken to Paepcke and Triangle parks as a precaution for their safety, Ritter said. They returned to the Yellow Brick at about 2 p.m. after the leak had been clamped.

“The children had a very exciting day,” said Ritter, noting that emergency drills are held regularly at the building.

Natalie Shelbourn, manager for community and governmental affairs for the Colorado operations of Source Gas, said a third-party contractor was working with a backhoe in the area when it hit a steel residential tap that was connected to the 2-inch main line servicing the area.

Neither she nor Balantine knew the name of the contractor, nor did they know the nature of the work the company was performing.

“They have the line clamped and they’ll be going in to make permanent repairs very soon,” Shelbourn said at 5 p.m. Friday.

Balantine said shifting winds made it difficult to tell where the gas was wafting. Some firefighters and police hung out at nearby Clark’s Market in case of a determination that the grocery store had to be evacuated, he said.

Balantine said the incident serves as a reminder to the community that it’s a good idea to subscribe to the Pitkin County Alert system that warns residents about emergencies. For information, visit the website http://www.pitkinalert.org.

asalvail@aspentimes.com