Natural gas leak prompts evacuation in Kennewick

June 13, 2013 

— A natural gas leak Wednesday prompted the evacuation of a Kennewick neighborhood for more than three hours. About 10 to 15 homes were evacuated around 10:30 a.m.

The natural gas line was clamped off by Cascade Natural Gas employees just before 2 p.m. and residents then were allowed back into their homes.

About 30 adults and children using the neighborhood community pool at the Ranchette Estates Recreation Club at Eighth Avenue and Kellogg also were evacuated.

Tara Kentch of Benton City had pulled into the parking lot near the pool at 10:30 a.m. She was sitting in her car with her two children, Karson, 4, and Kalirae, 2, waiting for an earlier swim class to finish when a man tapped on her car window.

“He told me to quickly get out of the car and go over to the pool area. I grabbed my two kids and got right over there. It wasn’t until then that I noticed the smell of gas,” she said. “It was so strong it was making people nauseous.”

Workers from Rada and Sons in Pasco had been repairing a septic system when they accidentally dug into the line. The backhoe operator didn’t even shut down the machine before jumping off and calling his office.

“I told him to call 911, that I’d call Cascade,” said Deby Rada of Rada and Sons.

Minutes later, Kentch said, she heard sirens as Kennewick police and firefighters responded to the 911 call.

Police blocked off Kellogg Street between Tenth and Eighth avenues. Firefighters secured the heavy equipment, then went door to door telling residents to leave the area, said Kennewick fire Chief Neil Hines.

Everyone who was gathered at the pool also were told to leave the area. But those like Kentch, who bailed out of their cars, leaving purses and car seats behind, were stranded until firefighters retrieved their belongings.

Rada said that two weeks before starting the repair, she had dialed 811, the “Call Before You Dig” line and was told the only gas line at the home ran along the north side of the house. The company was not working on that side, she said.

Rada said she made a second call Wednesday to Cascade when the homeowner told workers there was a gas line where they were going to be digging.

“I was assured no gas line was there,” she said.

Calls to Cascade on Wednesday were not returned.

The backhoe damaged a 2-inch line which spewed natural gas for several hours. Even blocks away when the wind shifted, onlookers could detect a strong smell of gas.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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