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PG&E crews pull all-nighter to repair gas leak

March 16, 2013 12:52:01 AM PDT
A massive natural gas leak in northeast Fresno reaches 20 hours of repair work, and officials say it will take at least the remainder of the night for the line to be fixed.

Shaw Avenue between First and Sixth Street remains closed Friday night. Hundreds of homes and businesses were evacuated while emergency crews worked to seal the leak.

Crews were working in holes 10 feet into the ground. The emergency work is a massive and expensive project, one the officials say will be paid for by the company that punctured the steel gas line.

Denny Boyles, spokesman for Pacific Gas And Electric Company said, "You're welding a new piece of line, eventually inspecting the welds. Then bring the pressure in the line up slowly and make sure your repair is safe."

Crews spent the afternoon digging out two massive holes in the middle of Shaw Avenue and 4th Street.

PG&E welders installed valves to stop the natural gas flow so they could eventually repair the leak. You could see the natural gas shooting out from the ground. The line was punctured by a contractor digging in an area where PG&E officials say the employees shouldn't have been working in.

"The contractor did not have a valid tag or did not follow the procedures needed to do this underground work," Boyles said.

That contractor, Atazz Technical Services out of Sacramento left its equipment on site, signs of a quick departure.

Meanwhile businesses like Swiggs Bar and Grill lost thousands of dollars in profit. Emergency crews shut off electricity for part of the day purposefully eliminating potential ignition sources. Swiggs eventually reopened, but not before it had to turn away important deliveries.

Swiggs employee Aimee Jackson said, "Turn away our Sysco delivery, our beer delivery, we didn't want to open up our walk-in and let the cool air out and force some spoilage. That would not be good."

The bar is hoping to quickly bounce back from the rough day. Other employers in the area also sent workers home since they had zero access to their offices.

But those losses and the cost to keep these utility and emergency crews hard at work will likely be repaid by Atazz.

The conservative estimate I heard from our guys is probably around $300,000 worth of PG&E work out here. Plus the cost of the gas that was lost," Boyles said.

Crews say they hope to be finished with this work and reopen Shaw Avenue sometime tomorrow morning.

That could be delayed depending on what damage crews find as they continue their work through the night.

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