Gas line break forces evacuationsBy Mike Harris
As many as 40 residents from the Arrowhead Highlands area of Crestline near Highway 18 off Lake Gregory Drive were evacuated Monday night around 6:30 p.m. after a private plow broke into a gas line threatening neighboring homes to the possibility of fire.
"I thought to myself, oh no, not another San Bruno," said Beth Flynn after being told to evacuate from her home.
Flynn was referring to the September explosion and fire in Northern California's San Bruno that killed one person, injured 20 others and destroyed 53 homes and damaged another 120 structures.
Crest Forest Fire Protection District firefighters responded to the 9-1-1 call, going door to door to more than 50 homes in the area telling as many residents as they could contact to get out. Several of the homes in the area are second homes, a Crest Forest Fire spokesperson said.
"I heard this loud whooshing sound, almost like a Santa Ana wind, but louder," Flynn said. "My husband and I grabbed our dogs and left even without jackets. My husband left wearing shorts."
Many of the evacuees were advised to go to Rim of the World High School, where the school library was used as an evacuation shelter. Temperatures dipped to 40 degrees as some evacuees with pets waited in their cars in the high school parking lot.
Rafaela Redon, who lives in the area of Forest View and Scenic View Drives, grabbed her three dogs and evacuated after firefighters knocked on her door.
"It was very scary," she said as she waited inside the library. Redon held one of her dogs in her lap with her two beagles close by on leashes.
A Red Cross team responded from Big Bear to the high school shelter while two Crestline Red Cross volunteers were first on the scene to assist evacuees. Sandwiches, snacks and bottled water were purchased at Stater Brothers in Lake Arrowhead and handed out to residents.
According to Crest Forest Fire, the plow was repairing the roadway along the 1300 block of Forest View Drive when it struck the pipeline.
"The gas line was about two inches in diameter and shot natural gas about 20 feet into the air," said Crest Forest Battalion Chief Jerry Ringhofer in a press release. "Our first technical objective was to secure, evacuate the surrounding area and deny entry into the scene."
Assisting Crest Forest Fire were units from San Bernardino County Fire Department. Also responding to the incident were California Highway Patrol units and deputies from the sheriff's Twin Peaks station.
Lake Gregory Drive was closed for a few hours, as were several of the side streets.
Southern California Gas dispatched one repair crew, but quickly ordered a second crew to help repair the pipe.
While declining to call the pipeline a high-pressure line, a spokesperson for the gas company said all lines are pressurized.
"Natural gas is lighter than air, so it does dissipate," the spokesperson said. "There was only one service outage."
Just after midnight residents at the high school were told by Crest Forest Fire Chief Michael Sherman they could go home.
"It's safe now," Sherman said to the sound of applause from the 15 to 20 residents inside the library.
Copyright ©2010 Mountain News. Published 10/30/2010.