Walnut Grove Playgrounds, a playground construction company which was working on a playground behind Camden Elementary School, struck a natural gas line Wednesday, April 16, forcing occupants in the school to evacuate the building immediately.
Calls of a gas leak reached authorities at approximately 2:09 p.m. and students were immediately taken to First Baptist Church in Camden to evacuate the scene.
Residents within one-eighth of a mile west and north of the elementary school, were also evacuated.
“We called in for some additional resources, handled any hazardous materials in the situation that we had. We basically waited on the utility company to get here to shut the gas off. There were some problems with that,” said Jared Riley, Camden Fire and EMS Lieutenant. “But they eventually got it shut off.”
Construction on the playground, behind the elementary school, breached a Vectren gas line when an excavator punctured the line.
“Evacuations went very well, the school handled the kids. After we got the all-clear from that, Camden Police Department handled the majority of the rest of the evacuations, as well as some assistance from the Fire Department,” said Riley.
Riley also said evacuations of the neighborhood went well. “They pretty much packed up what they needed and left the area until we gave them the all-clear to enter back,” said Riley.
“We used a water curtain to dissipate the gas that was flowing into the atmosphere and to also prevent a fire or explosion. The reason we had to bring our hazardous material unit out here was to contain the fluids that were leaking that actually encompassed the gas,” said Riley.
Once the gas line was turned off, crews worked to ventilate the schools by natural-ventilation.
Superintendent Dr. David Ulrich said, “Everything went about as perfect as it possibly could have happened yesterday. Our kids were great, our teachers were great, parents were great, bus drivers were great, every aspect went like clock-work, I’m just so proud of everybody involved. We kept the priority of the safety of our children first, and we held that, and we held it well, and I hope it never happens again,” said Ulrich.
“I would also like to thank First-Southern Baptist Church for their help in providing their facilities … it was such a great central location.”
Gasper Township Fire Department responded to the scene to assist with the scene as well as Camden Police Department.
Ulrich said adequate information given to Walnut Grove Playgrounds regarding gas lines, water lines, or other underground information said there were no pipes in the area. This allowed crews to believe it was safe to excavate the area.