Gas company: Too much pressure in gas line caused fires, explosions

FAIRPORT HARBOR, Ohio - Gas company officials said too much pressure in the line caused a series of fires and explosions in Fairport Harbor in Lake County Monday morning, prompting a town-wide evacuation.

The first call about a fire came in at 6:44 a.m. Firefighters said within 15 minutes, the fire spread to a second home next door.

About 30 calls also came in to 911 about the odor of natural gas.

Dominion Gas officials said too much gas was being pushed into the main gas line going into Fairport Harbor. This caused pilot lights to flare up and expand, causing the fires and some in explosions in 12 to 15 homes and buildings.

The gas company said the pressure has since been brought back to a normal level, but crews will check every home in the village in the next couple days.

The area most affected by the situation was High Street North and to the east.

As of 11:10 a.m., there are still two active fire situations that crews are working on. The evacuation orders are still in place and it's difficult to get back into town.

The entire village was being evacuated, and fire crews from about a dozen local cities responded to the scene. Residents are being told they can take shelter at a nearby senior center, at 1380 East St., and buses are transporting residents to safety.

Residents looking for information can call either of these numbers: 440-350-5469 or 440-350-5470.

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Long lines of cars were backed up trying to get out of the village.

Fairport Harbor Mayor Frank Sarosy told NewsChannel5 at around 8:50 that they were no longer evacuating the village, but were advising residents to take cover in their homes and shut off their gas. A problem with shutting off the gas and staying in a home is that it cuts off the heat on a day with frigid temperatures.

The fires were caused by an over-pressurization of a gas line, fire officials said, and the first call came in around 7 a.m., after a home explosion at 535 Richmond St. led to several fires. Crews shut off gas lines to the entire community, which has about 3,000 people.

Nobody was hurt in the initial blast, and no other injuries have been reported, fire officials said.

A concern with fighting the fires Monday morning is the cold temperatures, which could lead to freezing fire hoses, Sarosy said. Also, the crews are having pressure problems as they try to put out second-story structure fire.

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