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Fire Chief Calls Gas Leak Potentially 'Catastrophic'

Natural gas flooded West Caldwell building Monday after contractors cut through gas line.

Contractors working inside a vacant building cut through a gas line, flooding the building with natural gas and creating the potential for a catastrophic explosion midday Monday, according to West Caldwell fire officials.

The West Caldwell Fire Department and PSE&G reported to the scene just before noon and worked briskly to avert an explosion at a former medical office which is currently under construction on the corner of Bloomfield and Lougheed avenues.

Gas service was cut off to the one-story stucco building and surrounding buildings, including garden apartments and a medical complex, were evacuated. Bloomfield Avenue traffic was shut down in both directions and traffic was diverted for about an hour until the building was cleared of gas.

"The combination of the on rushing air into the building and the build up of natural gas inside created an extremely dangerous condition for a possible building explosion,” West Caldwell Fire Chief Jim Alvine stated in a release Tuesday.

Adding to the potential danger was an air compressor in the building which could have acted as an ignition source, Alvine said.

"There was an air compressor inside the building for the use of tools,” he said. “If that compressor motor operated, that would have been the ignition source for what could have been a catastrophic explosion."   

Contractors working inside the building cut through a 1 1/2" gas line, causing natural gas to flow freely into the building. Firemen could not safely enter the building due to the high levels of gas inside and the open windows.

Kean09 October 16, 2012 at 03:49 PM
1 1/2 inch pipe? Who are these guys? Who ownes this building now? I am concerned that these are not licensed contractors.. I am not a contractor but I know not to cut any pipes if you don't know what it is.. NICE...
E.D. October 16, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Someone needs to check and see if all the required permits were taken!! This is neglence at its worst. Thank God no one was hurt.
mmk October 17, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Right across from my sons pediatrician. Nice.
Michael October 18, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I will bet they are licensed. If you are considered a minority, you can pass with lower test scores, more eligible for startup business funds and be put in front of the line of more educated non minorities as it comes to hiring. Same with Police/Fire/EMT, you name it. The design of these programs is to take from the educated and sort of well off, to give opportunities to the poorly educated and less well off. In theory it is nobel, but guess who suffers? the same people who are paying for it and the people who it is designed to help, all these positions have an element of danger and risk, many times people get injured or killed because of someone whom is less educated and prepared for the job, but we also have a fix for that, Workman's Comp. and Disability. And our politicians can't figure out why we are falling behind in education and competitiveness around the world... lets see.. because someone with a college education is working at a Mcdonalds lettuce station, while the straight "C" high school graduate gets a sawzall or a gun.

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