A Citrus Heights woman said the gas fire that erupted Thursday started as SMUD worked on a streetlight in front of her home, but she commended the job done by utilities workers and fire crews in response to the emergency.
Resident Sue Rockey said she was away in Arizona when the gas pipe blew out in the driveway of her house. Her partner was home at the time, she said.
“It was in my driveway,” Rockey said. “The flames were all the way up in the palm tree, about 20 feet. The SMUD employee that was working banged on the door and woke her up. She and our neighbor got our car moved, and one of the other neighbors called 911.”
Digging work resulted in a spark Thursday, which ignited the gas leak in the 8300 block of Amsell Court, said Capt. Chris Vestal of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.
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A SMUD line worker suffered “apparent burn injuries” when the fire erupted around 10 a.m., said Chris Capra, a spokesman for SMUD. The worker was taken to an area hospital with non-critical injuries, Capra said.
“They’d come over several days ago and did an initial dig-out,” Rockey said. “It somehow ignited the gas pipe, which subsequently blew. It caught the tree on fire on the corner of our garage.”
Pacific Gas and Electric crews arrived at about 10:30 a.m., and gas was shut off in the immediate area by about 11 a.m. Gas service was restored to most of Amsell Court later that afternoon and fully restored in the area by 4 a.m. Friday, a PG&E spokeswoman confirmed.
The fire singed the roof of Rockey’s house, melted all the plastic off a car in a neighbor’s driveway and damaged garbage cans and nearby trees, she said. She said it took less than an hour for utility workers to shut the gas off.
“They had to dig up a yard down the street to shut it down,” she said.
About 20 homes in the area were evacuated, including Rockey’s, with all evacuations lifted by Thursday afternoon.
Vestal said Thursday that one home and one vehicle had minor damage, and the fire didn’t cause major damage to any houses or cause a larger fire at any nearby structure.
Rockey applauded the work done by PG&E, SMUD and Metro Fire officials. She referenced the recent series of gas explosions in Massachusetts, in which about 40 homes were damaged and one person was reportedly killed last week due to over-pressurized gas lines, and was thankful Thursday’s incident in Citrus Heights remained minor.
“It was a very unfortunate accident. But everybody that responded from the fire department, PG&E and SMUD were amazing, and really kept everyone informed on what was going on and kept us safe. Could have been a whole lot worse.”
The Folsom Police Department and Citrus Heights Police Department also assisted in emergency response, Metro Fire officials said.