BEND, OR -- The Bend Fire Department has seen an uptick in the number of gas leaks, including last week’s incident that led to the evacuation of the Bend Fred Meyer. Battalion Chief Andy Hood says the increase in calls is due, in part, to the start of construction season - many of the leaks are caused by equipment striking natural gas lines or propane tanks.
Bend crews have responded to about a dozen leaks in the past month, and Hood says every one deserves an immediate response, although that wasn't always the case. "It was thought that these may not be quite as an emergent situation. However, if you go back and study these incidents over time, you can find incidents that were very, very devastating, with loss of human life and destruction of property; both with propane and natural gas."
He says natural gas is especially dangerous inside a structure because pipes provide an unending supply of gas. "Once it reaches an explosive limit, all it needs is an ignition source. So, that is why it is so critical that we intervene in those. And the primary order is obviously evacuation, followed by disconnect power to that building or area." Hood says those who don't evacuate a closed building also risk asphyxiation.
Bend has been lucky; it’s been a few years since a leak led to a major incident. However, Hood says no community is immune from a serious gas-related problem. "Specifically natural gas, when it gets confined in a structure and it continues to build, it becomes a major emergency. If you recall back in October, in Portland, they had an explosion in a three-story mixed residential/commercial building in downtown Portland."
If you smell gas, evacuate immediately, then call 911. The fire department works closely with the gas company and dispatchers will contact the utility at the same time firefighters are sent to a reported leak.