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Gas leak prompts evacuation of city block in Oregon

Leak repaired, residents and business employees return in late afternoon

OREGON – A natural gas leak in the basement of a building in the 400 block of West Washington Street prompted emergency personnel to evacuate one full city block Tuesday as workers from Nicor Gas tried to cap it.

A contractor working in the basement of the building at 408 W. Washington accidentally cut the gas line, Nicor said. The company got the call around 11:50 a.m.

By late afternoon, the leak had been repaired and residents and businesses were getting back to normal.

“The gas leak has been stopped and they’re venting the building,” Police Chief Darin DeHaan said at 5:30 p.m. “The good thing is, we had a strong wind today, so the gas quickly dissipated.”

As the building filled with gas, firefighters asked police to clear the one-block area as a precaution.

Businesses in the 100 block of North Fourth Street/state Route 2 and 400 block of West Washington/state Route 64 also were evacuated at 11:28 a.m.

Motorists were detoured around the area and sidewalks were closed.

Jonathan Champion was upstairs in his apartment with his two dogs at 408 1/2 W. Washington St. when a business operator alerted him to the leak.

“The lady from the antique store came up and told us we needed to be evacuated. I was running around chasing the dogs to get them,” Champion said. “I smelled a little of the gas after she told me there was a gas leak.”

Champion moved Lola and Graham into his car in the North Fifth Street parking lot as Oregon firefighters waited for Nicor workers to stop the leak.

Police notified the school district, and the transportation department planned alternative routes for students to walk home at the end of the day.

Firefighters were preparing to leave the scene around 5:45 p.m., Assistant Fire Chief Randy Travis said.

Nicor was to remain 4 or 5 hours more, he said, digging to find the line where it enters the building to put a shutoff valve in it.

Shaw Media's Earleen Hinton contributed to this story.

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