20 displaced by Fairport Harbor gas fires, cause investigated

FAIRPORT HARBOR, Ohio - Dominion Gas crews late Monday completed their house by house sweep of 1,500 homes in Fairport Harbor to determine which were safe for service to be restored.

The Red Cross is helping about 20 people who were displaced after a series of gas fires destroyed a dozen structures in Fairport Harbor on Monday.

Dominion Gas said an unusually high amount of pressure in the natural gas lines caused pilot lights to flare up and catch homes and other buildings on fire -- and even caused some explosions.

"I thought somebody was snow blowing," said Dana Kirk talking about the noise coming from her gas heater.  "Next thing I know there's three foot flames shooting out," she said.

Firefighters said the amount of pressure that normally exists in a residential gas line is in the 4 to 6 ounce range, but Monday’s situation brought out measurements in the pounds.

As a result of the surge in gas, six homes that caught fire were destroyed, including the 4-plex. Ten structures are no longer inhabitable due to fire or damage done to appliances, firefighters said. At one point, emergency crews called for the entire town of about 3,000 people to evacuate.

No one was hurt in any of the fires.

Dominion officials say there are three natural gas regulator stations that serve the village.  The first two inspected Monday showed no signs of any problems. 

The third will be inspected Tuesday by Dominion and officials with the state Public Utilities Commission.

Heating repairman Jeff Strauss was just beginning the process Monday night of fixing some of the damage caused to furnaces. 

"There's going to be a mess of parts going bad one way or the other whether it be gas valves, heat exchangers burned up, hot water tanks," said Strauss.

Plumber Kevin Edgell agrees saying regulators on furnaces and hot water heaters usually can't hold up to pressure levels like the ones seen Monday.

"They're just a real thin small diaphragm in these gas valves for the water heaters and furnaces and they'll blow out when the poundage come in," he said.

Dominion has set up a number for customers to call if they experience any problems it's (877) 542-2630.

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