A ruptured natural gas line forced a day care and 15 homes in Gambrills to be evacuated Thursday as fire and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews worked to contain the threat of explosion, according to the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
The fire department first got a call about 1:30 p.m. from a cable or fiber-optics contractor who had been working underground in the 1300 block of Riedell Road when he smelled gas, said Lt. Keith Hamilton, a fire department spokesman.
Fire personnel, working with BGE crews, subsequently identified a ruptured four-inch natural gas line, which Hamilton called a "super-highway of natural gases" compared with the more common half-inch lines that bring gas into individual homes.
As a safety precaution, natural gas in pipelines that travel through populated areas includes an additive that makes the gas give off a pungent smell, and that smell began to cover the surrounding neighborhood, Hamilton said.
"The air was not moving anywhere," Hamilton said. "Everything was just hanging low to the ground, and it wasn't dissipating at the rate it would on a nice, nonsummer day."
Fire officials closed off Riedell Road and about 2 p.m. evacuated the Newbury School, a day care, sending about 50 children from to the Waugh Chapel Fire Station across the street, where parents were told to pick them up, Hamilton said.
Hours later, continued testing in the area by BGE crews identified high gas readings in sewers around the initial leak, leading to nearby Echo Bay Court, which has 15 homes, being evacuated about 6 p.m., Hamilton said.
The entire area was blocked off, including sidewalks, Hamilton said.
"Everyone was just like, 'Let's rule this out and play safe and make sure everyone is safe,'" he said.
Residents were allowed to return to their homes between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., after fire officials had gone home to home, checking gas levels, Hamilton said.
He said Riedell Road remained closed late Thursday as BGE crews continued to repair the damaged gas line.
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