Buildings evacuated, workers injured after gas leak in North Seattle

VIDEO: Buildings evacuated, workers injured after gas leak in North Seattle

SEATTLE — A natural gas leak in North Seattle ignited while crews were trying to seal the gas pipe Friday morning. The flames shot 20 feet into the sky and hurt three workers.

The leak began around 10:45 a.m. Friday in the 10300 block of Midvale Avenue North – just south of the intersection of Northgate Way and Aurora Avenue North.

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Residents in about three blocks were evacuated as the Seattle Fire Department responded.

"All of a sudden, bang, bang, bang, bang! They told us we had to evacuate," said Tilly Holmes who was home with her family Friday morning.

Moments after they got out of the house, they saw the flames.

Only KIRO7 cameras were there the moment the gas ignited – you hear a "pop" noise, then see sudden flames, and two PSE workers running away from the scene.

"It got real big, I was worried didn't know if any of the cars were going to catch on fire," said Kendrick Peoples, Tilly's husband. "It smelled, the whole block was reeking of gas," he said.

Puget Sound Energy said crews were working to pinch the pipe closed with tools similar to long pliers when something went wrong and caused the natural gas to catch on fire.

Fire crews said letting the gas burn was the "safest way to mitigate the hazard."

Two PSE workers were injured in the process and both were transported to an area hospital in stable condition, officials said.

An additional PSE worker was injured later and was also transported to an area hospital in stable condition.

"I've been at PSE for 12 years, I can't recall anything like this happening," said Andy Wappler, vice president at Puget Sound Energy.

Wappler said gas leaks caused by construction crews hitting lines happen several times a week.

It requires crews to come and seal pipes.

He told in this case -- the contractors followed protocol of "Call Before You Dig," called the 811 line, and checked where gas pipes were before digging -- but still hit one.

Crews were using long tools to pinch the leaking pipe  closed when something went wrong.

"We don't know what caused the gas to ignite," Wappler said.

"I think it's so safe most the time we forget that even a normal day, a normal routine moment can be dangerous," he said.

Chopper 7 was overhead when the gas stopped burning around 12:10 p.m.

The gas leak was officially secured around 12:25 p.m. and people were allowed back into their homes around 1:30 p.m.

See video from Chopper 7 below:

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