BEND, OR -- In the past month, the Bend Fire Department has responded to eight gas leaks, seven of those just in the past week. While it may seem like a sudden spike, Mark Hanson with Cascade Natural Gas tells KBND the total number of accidents is similar to this time last year. "The number of line hits is kind of in the same neighborhood, but there have been a lot more line locates this year, so it’s definitely a busier construction time, or people doing activities that require line locates. There were about 160 more line locates from April to June this year, than last year, and that resulted in one additional line strike than we had last year."
Hanson says it’s not uncommon to have more incidents during the summer construction season, but most contractors follow the law. "To call 8-1-1, the 'Call Before You Dig' line, to have all underground utilities located prior to digging, so you know where to and where not to dig. And, that’s the biggest way to have lines protected." He adds, "Anytime you’re digging around those types of buried lines, you should take every precaution and take it very seriously for safety. It’s for the safety of the person digging and everyone around. A line strike can result in, not only damage and an outage, where you can knock out the natural gas service or electrical to your neighbor or an entire neighborhood, but striking those lines, you can also be injured or, in some cases, it can lead to a fatality."
He says the overall number of construction-related gas leaks has trended downward in recent years, due to increased usage of the hotline; however, more than a third of the gas leaks in Bend in the past four months involved someone failing to call. And there are consequences aside from the danger. "If we have a repeat offender and they don’t call in for locates, they are billed for the damage.
Bend Fire officials say crews respond to every reported gas leak to help locate the source, evacuate the area if needed, and protect utility workers until the gas can be shut off. Battalion Chief Dave Howe says if you suspect a leak, you should get outside and call 9-1-1 immediately.