Gas leak forces evacuation in New Castle

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WKBN) – A neighborhood was evacuated in New Castle after a gas leak was discovered in a former school building.

The neighborhood surrounding the former Lincoln Garfield Elementary building located at 301 East Long Avenue was evacuated around 8:30 a.m. Friday.

“My cousin tried going to work this morning and said all he smelled was gas. He called me and asked me what was going on,” said resident Dennis Vogan. “That is the same time the fire department was knocking on the door asking everyone to evacuate.”

Columbia Gas and firefighters were concerned about the potential for a fire or explosion and immediately evacuated the area.

“Once we identified gas in the building, the whole building is now dangerous, so we didn’t enter until we were able to secure the electricity,” said Assistant Fire Chief Michael Petrone. “Penn Power shut the power off to the building to eliminate any causes of ignition.”

After the building was stable, crews went inside and began ventilating the structure.

Investigators said the leak may have resulted from someone trying to steal pipes from the building, which is vacant and privately owned.

Petrone said the evacuations occurred without incident, adding that the fire department, police department, Columbia Gas and Penn Power all worked to ensure the safety of residents.

“When something like this happens, we understand each of us plays a role to bring an incident like this under control,” said Petrone. “The gas company called us and we called the police department, once we found the building was unsecured and potentially broken in to. The police will investigate what the situation was.”

Residents were allowed to return to  their homes a short time later.

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