Gas leak sparks evacuation at Phoenix hotel

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 6:22 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 27 at 11:54 AM

Map: Cactus Road & 28th Drive

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PHOENIX -- A gas leak forced the evacuation of a Phoenix Holiday Inn early Monday morning.

A staff member reported a strong odor of gas inside the hotel at 5 a.m. Dozens of fire crews immediately responded to the hotel at Cactus Road and 28th Drive, just west of Interstate 17.

The call was quickly escalated to a second-alarm assignment, which means more personnel were sent to the scene.

Reporting live from the scene throughout "Good Morning! Arizona," 3TV's Heidi Goitia said the odor was pervasive, even outside.

Firefighters went door to door in the hotel, waking guests and hustling them outside. About 140 people, including staff, were evacuated. It's not clear how many guests are registered at the Holiday Inn.

Aerial video from the scene showed dozens of people milling about outside.

By 7 a.m., city buses had been called in to take the evacuees to another hotel. The guests were not allowed to move their vehicles because simply starting a car could ignite the gas and trigger an explosion.

Scanner traffic at about 6:20 a.m. indicated that firefighters were pulling out of the four-story hotel, and media members were being moved further from the building for safety reasons.

Based on saturation readings -- there was 100-percent saturation on one side of the hotel -- firefighters are certain the leak is underground.

Crews from Southwest Gas have started to carefully dig down to the leaking line under 28th Drive to make the necessary repairs.

Once the repairs were made, crews went back into the Holiday Inn and took readings on every floor to make sure everything was safe.

Guests were allowed to return on a priority basis. Those who had flights to catch or pressings appointments were taken back first. All of the guests had returned by about noon.

Cactus Road was closed from I-17 west to 30th Avenue. The southbound I-17 exit ramp and frontage road were closed, as well. ADOT was anticipating that those closures could be in place for quite some time.

Those closures were lifted shortly after 10:30 a.m.

While natural gas is colorless and odorless, gas companies add a distinctive scent similar to the smell of rotten eggs to the line to help detect leaks.

Not only is natural gas potentially explosive, exposure to it can be dangerous.

Symptoms of natural gas poisoning, including headache, dizziness, nausea, irregular breathing and fatigue, can be relatively mild at first. Those symptoms get worse with prolonged exposure.

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