Residents return after construction fire and evacuation in Old City

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Residents are back in their homes after a construction fire prompted evacuations Thursday morning. (Image courtesy Anthony Hopkins.)

Two dozen people have been allowed back into a pair of buildings in Old City after a construction fire prompted evacuations.

The incident happened around 8:45 a.m. Thursday on Race Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, when an electrical contractor struck a small, 1-inch gas service line.

A small gas flame burned from the contractor's trench near the intersection for a short time after the line was struck.

The flame never got very big, but it got everyone's attention.

"The flames got, probably - I don't know how deep the trench was - sticking up about 2 feet above the trench level," said one witness. "Steady flame, it wasn't spurting or anything. It was just a slow roast."

Fire units responded for a short period. About 24 people were evacuated from two nearby buildings as PGW crews worked to cut the fuel source.

Initially it was thought an 8-inch high-pressure main had been struck.

But later officials determined it was a smaller, low-pressure line that tapped into the 8-inch main.

A worker was installing conduit and using a trenching tool when the line ruptured.

Apparently it had not been marked as being active or energized.

It appears the contractor did everything right. He called 811 before digging, and painted utility markings were clearly visible on the street near the construction area.

But somehow, officials say, that 1-inch gas service line was never marked, leading to Thursday morning's accident.

The evacuated occupants were allowed back into their buildings around 10:00 a.m.

PGW said there were no injuries or service interruptions from the incident.

Related Topics:
philly newsfiregas leakconstruction accidentCenter City Philadelphia
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