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Resident digging up tree ruptures gas line
gas leak pic
The fire department ordered about 30 residents from approximately 10 homes to evacuate the area of Bluefield Avenue on Thursday due to a ruptured natural gas pipeline. - photo by Photo Contributed

The gas leak that prompted a neighborhood evacuation was caused by a resident operating a bucket loader, according to the Turlock Fire Department.

The Turlock Fire Department responded to a report of a gas leak in the 700 block of Bluefield Avenue around 5 p.m. Thursday.

The first crews to arrive found a large leak from a ruptured natural gas pipeline and a large cloud of dust hanging in the air.

According to the fire department, a resident had been trying to remove a tree stump with a Bobcat machine and accidently hit and ruptured the gas line.

The fire department ordered about 30 residents from approximately 10 homes to evacuate the area and take shelter at Dennis Earl Elementary School. Residents in homes further away from the leak were notified using an automated emergency notification system and told to shelter in place and to keep all doors and windows closed.

"A pipeline rupture is dangerous to residents and public safety personnel because of the force of the gas release, debris from the rupture, and the risk of fire,” said Turlock Fire Chief Robert Talloni. “If a leak is in a confined space, such as a house, gas concentrations in the flammable range are explosive. City firefighters metered the houses in the affected area to be sure gas readings were below the LEL or Lower Explosive Limits before releasing them back to their owners."

Pacific Gas and Electric came to the scene and had the leak stopped and repaired in approximately two hours.

The fire department wants to remind residents to call 811 before they dig to avoid such incidents. 811 is a free service managed by Underground Service Alert and available to everyone. After a resident calls, Underground Service Alert will contact PG&E and other companies that have underground lines in the area. Representatives will then mark the location of their underground lines so residents can avoid them and dig safely. Whether the plans are for planting a tree or a garden, or digging holes for fence posts, call 811 at least two business days before starting a project.