Downtown Raleigh buildings evacuated after gas leak

Staff reportsDecember 30, 2013 

A Raleigh firefighter (right) looks on as PSNC workers lift a section of sidewalk during a search for a natural gas leak in the 200 block of South Salisbury Street in downtown Raleigh, Monday afternoon, Dec. 30, 2013. At least one block of the downtown street was closed and several business evacuated during the leak.

SCOTT SHARPE — ssharpe@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Firefighters on Monday evacuated several downtown buildings, shut down sidewalk traffic and closed at least one parking deck while investigating reports of a natural gas leak, a fire commander reported.

“We have picked up some readings, but we are not positive,” D.P. Whitley, a Battalion Chief with the Raleigh Fire Department, reported just after 1:30 p.m.

The fire department is being assisted by the gas utility, Public Service North Carolina, which was also checking for confirmation of a gas leak and where it may be coming from.

It was just before 11:30 a.m. when a 911 caller reported a gas odor somewhere between South Salisbury and Fayetteville streets, according to a spokesman with the city’s emergency communications center.

Firefighters arrived along with a hazardous materials response vehicle, a ladder truck and two fire engines.

Police who arrived directed traffic away from the 200 blocks of South Salisbury and Fayetteville streets, while firefighters used yellow caution tape to cordon off the area. A yellow pipe snaked from a fire engine up the 200 block of Fayetteville Street, about 25 feet from “The Rock Star,” a guitar-shaped amusement ride that’s being readied for Tuesday’s First Night celebration. Thousands of people are expected to celebrate in the section where the gas odor was reported, but police advised pedestrians to stay clear of the area Monday afternoon.

The 227 S. Salisbury Street building was also evacuated and emergency officials prevented vehicles from entering and exiting The News & Observer’s parking deck, which is across Salisbury Street from the evacuated building.

The Subway shop on Fayetteville Street remained open for business, but firefighters evacuated nearly every other building on the street.

“We evacuated on both sides,” Whitley said.

Two hours after firefighters were alerted, they still had not found confirmation of a gas leak. Whitley said firefighters were “leaning on the side of safety.”

“We don’t know where the source is or if there is a source,” he said.

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