Gas line fire forces partial evacuation of Tucson neighborhood

Posted: Updated:
By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A midtown Tucson neighborhood was evacuated midday Monday after an underground gas line ignited apparently after a series of incidents involving a tree branch, power line and fence.

Tucson Fire officials say the line was burning at multiple locations primarily along Longfellow Avenue between Second and Fourth Streets.

Fire officials evacuated multiple homes as it battled to protect structures as flames shot from the gas line.  First reports of the incident came in at about 12:15 p.m.

"The potential for spreading to the homes was very significant," said Captain Trish Tracy of the Tucson Fire Department.  "And that's why we evacuated the entire neighborhood."

The situation is very similar, but not as devastating, as the fire in San Bruno, California, two weeks ago where a 30" gas line ruptured and burned much of a neighborhood.  This gas line was considerably smaller.

Fire officials waited for more than a half hour before crews from Southwest Gas arrived on scene to shut off the gas.  It was over an hour before the gas was shut off.  Southwest Gas told Fox 11 crews on the scene that gas was shut off to homes in the neighborhood.   Tucson Electric Power says about 1,000 customers were without power after it cut current to the downed line.

Fox 11 News crews on the scene report that officials are investigating a falling tree branch as a potential cause.  They say the branch fell into a power line which broke and fell onto a metal fence.  They say that charged the ground near the fence causing the underground gas line to burst and ignite.

No injuries were reported.  Southwest Gas checked all homes before allowing residents to return.  Electricity was eventually restored; however, gas remained off Monday.