Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- An unusual situation flared up in downtown Columbia Wednesday at the corner of Sumter and Richland streets when a construction crew got too close to a gas line.
"In the course of doing that work actually dug into the gas line causing that leak. When we came in to begin the repair work in the course of excavating to get to those lines, the gas actually ignited and resulted in some flames," said SCE&G Spokesman Eric Boomhower.
Columbia firefighters say 12 to 15 people were evacuated including children at a church daycare. Boomhower says they shut down the gas lines to address the problem.
"We go house to house, or business to business and turn off gas supply at the meter until we affect those repairs. And once those repairs are complete we send crews back out door to door to turn those supplies back on and also light their pilot lights," Boomhower said. Hey says that by now, services should be restored to all those who experienced a loss.
Boomhower says what we saw yesterday does not happen frequently, calling evacuations and fires from gas leaks rare. He says he cannot recall this happening before in his nine years with the company.
"Almost all the time we're able to get in there and take care of that before you have a situation like we had last night. Gas is not like gasoline where it just ignites. You have to have certain conditions in place," said Boomhower.
In order to have fire, he says, the amount of natural gas in a gas-air mixture must reach between 5 and 15 percent. Despite the risks associated with any form of energy, he says natural gas is among the safest.
Boomhower says if you have any type of personal or professional construction project planned that involves digging; you should call 811 to get free information about underground utilities before you begin.