Puns aside, natural gas leaks are no laughing matter. Cottonwood Fire and Medical Department responded to a natural gas line leak in the 600 block of West Mingus Avenue around 11:30 a.m. Oct. 10.
Personnel found an active leak from an underground gas line that had been damaged by earth-moving equipment working in the area. UniSource Energy Services, the owner and servicer of the natural gas line, sent utility crews to the scene and stopped the flow of gas from the damaged gas main.
Cottonwood Police Department and Cottonwood Public Works personnel responded to the scene to coordinate the closure of West Mingus Avenue between State Route 89A and Candy Lane.
“In this case, this was a substantial leak because the damage was done by moving equipment,” CFMD Chief Mike Kuykendall said. “Gas was coming up from the ground. Any time you have gas leaking from a pipe [the gas may reach] a flammable limit.”
The flammable or explosive limit is reached when the density of gas in the air is ideal for ignition. Fearing these conditions during a gas leak, CFMD immediately seeks to minimize the danger by isolating ignition sources and moving people as far from the site as possible.
“You could have a flash and subsequent fire,” Kuykendall said, adding that CFMD’s responding engine crew of three immediately donned air packs and protective clothing. UniSource personnel, likewise, worked with protective clothing as they dug to the line using a backhoe before moving to shovels.
The backhoe uses diesel fuel, minimizing potential sparks from the motor. The handheld tools are made of brass to minimize sparking. “They’re unsung heroes,” Kuykendall said of the UniSource crew. “They’re experts and they did an exceptional job …. They were on scene within just minutes [and] in this case they were able to clamp the line. People don’t realize how important they are in ensuring our safety. They’re first responders, too.”
Point in fact, CFMD trains with gas company personnel regularly to ensure safe and efficient responses to gas leaks and other natural resource emergencies. Personnel coordinate efforts, making sure everyone knows what duties are being covered by whom.
“We work together as a team,” Kuykendall said. “Our job is primarily to cover them if there’s a fire [and] help suppress it while they’re in the danger zone …. We also isolate the area to try to minimize ignition sources.”