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Home damaged after gas line cut

Sat., April 13, 2013

Contractor’s sewer work leads to fire; no injuries reported

A private contractor doing sewer work ruptured a natural gas line on East Bridgeport Avenue Friday morning, causing a fire that spread to a house.

Spokane Fire Department Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said an excavator hit the line and the fire “grew exponentially” before firefighters arrived. They were able to contain the flames to the back of the house at 1118 E. Bridgeport Ave.

No injuries were reported, but the fire was estimated to cause $20,000 in damage.

“We evacuated the majority of the block here,” Schaeffer said.

Kim Birdsell, who rents the house with her husband, Stewart, said they were home with their 17-year-old granddaughter when they heard a boom and the house shook.

They quickly started to evacuate several animals from the home before fire crews arrived.

“They finally told us we had to stop,” Birdsell said.

They were able to rescue two dogs and three cats. Two more cats were still missing Friday morning.

Fire Battalion Chief Steve Sabo said family members told the fire department that the owner of the house wanted to replace the sewer line behind the house and had a private company do the work.

Sabo said there were markers on the ground for the water and sewer lines, but it appears the gas line was not marked.

By law, anyone digging deeper than 12 inches must call 811 at least two business days before digging. A new law took effect this year that levies harsher penalties for damaging lines while digging.

Initial violations remain $1,000 but now rise to $5,000 for subsequent violations within a three-year period.

Damaging a hazardous liquid or gas transmission pipeline can lead to a $10,000 fine and a misdemeanor charge.

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