Dozens evacuated in South Philadelphia gas leak

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA - February 1, 2014

Officials say around 5:20 p.m. Saturday, residents began reporting a strong smell of gas on the 2200 block of South 8th Street.

PGW crews and firefighters arrived on scene. When it was confirmed that it was a gas leak, residents on both sides of the block were quickly evacuated.

"I mean they only gave you five seconds to get out, that was for sure," said Ron Jaconelli.

Fire officials say 28 homes were evacuated, impacting approximately 50 people.

"We were sitting in the house and the fire people were coming and they busted the doors right across from us and immediately started evacuating all of the houses," said Anthony Seaborin.

"And I said, 'Well, could I get a few clothes on? They said, 'No, no just put your jacket on and hurry up out to the corner because it could blow up.' I was really scared," said Loretta Kelsey.

PGW crews punched holes into the pavement trying to locate the source of the leak. This as a small army of firefighters stood by in case they were needed.

As a matter of practice, fire personnel are always on standby to assist PGW whenever there is a report of a gas leak.

Just two days ago, they were on hand when crews were investigating a gas leak on the 1800 block of Bancroft Street.

There was a subsequent explosion. Two workers suffered minor injuries and several residents were evacuated.

Officials say there was another gas leak Saturday at 9th and Race streets that has since been fixed.

"It's the winter months and it's a lot of wear and tear on the streets and the mains and these things happen," said Deputy Fire Commissioner Richard Davidson.

PGW has since changed its procedures after it was cited by the Public Utility Commission for a gas explosion that killed one of their workers in January 2011.

Meanwhile, residents on South 8th Street say they'd rather be safe than sorry.

"It's an inconvenience because you got to stand out here in the cold but at the same time you want to be safe," said Seaborin.

"If you're getting evacuated from your house because of a gas situation, you know you have to get out, the sooner the better because you never know if it's going to explode or not," said Jaconelli.

PGW officials say they have located the source of the leak, shut off the pipe and are working to make repairs.

After several hours, evacuated residents were let back into their homes.

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