Gas line repairs underway in Gilbert; evacuated residents escorted into homes

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

GILBERT, Ariz. -- An explosion inside a man’s garage started the evacuation of a neighborhood in Gilbert near Val Vista Drive and Warner Road and dozens of residents are still out of their homes.

As crews were cleaning up after the explosion Sunday afternoon, Southwest Gas got enough readings to feel concerned about a possible gas leak, so they evacuated 24 homes.

Residents were evacuated to Gilbert’s Public Safety Building.

The Gilbert Fire Department said some of those residents would be allowed back into their homes for about 10 minutes Monday, enough time to grab a few essentials to get them through the day. There was no estimated time for them to return for good.

"The good news is that the gas reads have been dropping all night and we're almost to that zero level that we look for," Amy Washburn of Southwest Gas said Monday morning. "This is an ongoing investigation ... a couple different agencies involved to find out what exactly happened here with the gas leak .... Until we get full get full clearance on that, folks are probably going to have to stay back aside from those escorted visits."

All of this came after an explosion in a garage Sunday that left one man burned after he lit a cigarette in the garage, and the explosion blew off the door. He was taken to the Arizona Burn Center.

Gilbert Fire said there is no natural gas hookup in the house, but the investigation led them to the leak. At this point, they believe paint fumes in the garage are to blame for the explosion.

Still, gas was detectable in the neighborhood, and that was cause for concern.

"I guess there are pipes underneath, even though we don’t have gas, I guess there are pipes underneath the yards and stuff going up to the houses back here that do have gas," said Kirk Haushah, who lives in the area.

Neighbors were worried.

"I don’t want anything to happen to my house. I still have things there that are important to me that I obviously couldn’t bring, so it’s difficult to leave all that and be [out] here and not know anything," area resident Athena Zepeda said.

Gilbert Fire said there is a two-inch residential gas line east of the neighborhood they evacuated.

They have located the leak, and are crimping the pipe to isolate the leak.

Southwest gas will determine when it is safe for the evacuees to return home.