Middletown first responders evacuated more than two dozen houses in the 900 block of Lafayette Avenue between Verity Parkway and Baltimore Street on Wednesday morning after a natural gas line was struck and ignited.
Sally Thelen, a Duke Energy spokeswoman, said in an email that “the leak was caused by someone working on the curbs in the area, and their piece of cutting equipment came into contact with the Duke Energy gas line, causing fire.”
Thelen said investigators will determine who will be responsible for the cost of repair.
“In typical situations, we would bill whoever damages our facilities, however in this case, that would be premature to say until a report is completed,” she said.
City spokeswoman Shelby Quinlivan said the active gas leak was identified about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday in the 900 block of Lafayette Avenue. First responders evacuated nearby homes as a precaution. Duke Energy was called in to turn off the gas line in the area.
The fire was put out about 11:30 a.m., and residents returned to their homes.
Jessica Stamey, who lives in the 900 block of Lafayette Avenue, said she woke up and saw messages on social media about the incident.
She came outside with only her niece and her purse and was taken to a bus for evacuation. Stamey, who has lived there for about a year, said her two sons were already at school.
Stamey said crews have been working on streets for the past two weeks as part of city’s curb, gutter and sidewalk program.
Another Lafayette Avenue resident, Deloris Brandenburg, said she was asked to leave her home about 10:15 a.m. but was not told for more than 30 minutes that there was a gas leak on the street. The burning gas leak was close to her home.
Brandenburg, who has lived at her home in the 900 block of Lafayette Avenue since 1964, said this has never happened before. As she sat on a city bus, Brandenburg said, “I’m ready to go home.”
Middletown medics gave her a front-seat ride in their ambulance and two firefighters helped her up the steps and into her home after the incident.
Quinlivan said said crews from Vandalia-based R.B. Jurgens Contractors Inc. have been working on Lafayette Avenue for more than a month as part of the city’s nearly $2.06 million annual sidewalks, curbs and gutters program.
She said underground utilities such as gas services, water services and phone lines can be damaged but fires are uncommon. Typically the utility company is contacted and repairs are made immediately as required, Quinlivan said.
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