Gas line ruptures in Woodland Hills, sparking fire and prompting evacuations

- A natural gas line was ruptured Wednesday by a backhoe in Woodland Hills, sparking a fire that engulfed the construction vehicle and prompting some precautionary evacuations.

From Hal Eisner:

There were a few anxiety-provoking hours for residents in the Shoup area of Woodland Hills. A tractor accident around 1pm caused a spectacular eruption of fire that caused for evacuations and some frayed nerves. 

LADWP crews were working on an 8" fire line when the driver of a backhoe accidentally cut a hole into a 4" natural gas line. 

Suddenly, there was a fire geyser CECE Whitehead and her husband Ricky were shaken by the rupture. Ricky ran out to see what was going on when he hear sirens. He saw the fire form into a tall fountain-like blaze. The flames feeding of the escaping natural gas. CECE Whitehead says we were "very worried about it."

She had her evacuation kit ready to go, but the order to evacuate never stretched to her street, Califa, even though the fire was in the adjacent park.

Meanwhile, others, tho, were told to get out and they did. LAFD Captain Roger Fowble told FOX11 News,  

“We had a lot of black heavy smoke and embers coming over to the west side of Shoup so, we started to evacuate, but right now we’re sheltering in place and everybody should be fine.”

By 5pm, seemed like that was the case. The gas was turned off. The fire was gone. But, Ricky Whitehead won't forget the sound of the "big boom" when the backhoe's fuel tank blew. and CECE is still frustrated by the looky-loos that filled her driveway, “rather than making room for the fire department that was trying to get on my street, protect my property and my neighbors.”

Because the fire was in a park it was more manageable than had it been in the middle of street with homes. No one was hurt. And, that guy on the tractor got away... fast! Lucky man!

Earlier:

Firefighters were sent to the 5800 block of North Shoup Avenue about 1:15 p.m., said Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Fire department and Southern California Gas Co. officials said the damaged pipe is a 4-inch line.

The Gas Co. reported the line was damaged during a "third party excavation'' and that a crew from the utility responded and dug "control holes'' to control the flow of gas, a process Stewart said was completed by 3:52 p.m. Once the flow of gas was stemmed, the flames died down.

The backhoe was being used by a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power crew installing an 8-inch fire-service line to an adjacent property when the gas line was ruptured.

When the flames were raging, firefighters sprayed water on the conflagration from a distance to keep the blaze from igniting nearby trees and buildings.

No injuries were reported, but police said that "lookie loos'' were ignoring the danger and trying to get to the area as utility crews and firefighters were at work.

Gas Company officials again urged residents to call 811 before digging to prevent damage to underground utility lines.

DWP officials said all scheduled underground construction done by the agency is approved in advance "and occurs only after utility lines are marked by the utility owner, or its contracted entity. At this time, the incident is under investigation to determine why the gas line was struck.''

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