Ladysmith, North Oyster and Chemainus firefighters responded to the gas leak on 4th Avenue on Friday. (Mike Gregory Photo)

Ladysmith homes evacuated after gas line ruptured

Multiple fire departments respond, evacuation centre set up at FJCC

Several Ladysmith residents were evacuated from their homes as a safety precaution on Friday after construction crews working at the Rocky Creek dip struck a gas line.

The incident occurred around 11:30 a.m. on Fourth Avenue where traffic had been reduced to a single lane after the road collapsed late last year.

Crews started working in the area earlier this week after the town decided it would harden the road surface in preparation for this winter and re-tender the project to replace the culvert and rebuild the crossing next spring.

A property was also purchased by the town to provide another access route for the neighbourhoods near Forrest Field.

Ladysmith Fire Rescue, North Oyster and Chemainus were all called to the scene and gas could be heard hissing several hundred metres away.

“We’re cordoning off the area and making sure it’s safe,” Ladysmith Deputy Fire Chief Wayne Johnston told the Chronicle earlier in the afternoon. “All that’s missing is a spark so we’ve got guys down there just in case.”

The town updated the public on it’s Facebook page at approximately 5 p.m. that an emergency response centre was available to displaced residence up at Frank Jameson Community Centre. The latest timeline by the town is that work will be finished by 7 p.m.

Eight residences were evacuated by firefighters, including the Executive Apartments, home to about 22 residences. Vouchers for meals and accommodations were being provided at the FJCC if necessary.

Fortis BC was on scene for the majority of the day working to bypass the damaged gas line.

The town said Ladysmith Fire Rescue will assess the situation and determine if it is safe for the evacuated residents to return to their homes later this evening.

“It’s got to be done safely that’s the number one issue so it’s not going to be done hastily,” Johnston added.

Mercaptan is the harmless chemical added to natural gas that creates the smell of sulphur.

Anyone living in the immediate area who can smell gas is likely at low risk.

“It’s a relatively safe product and it’s lighter than air so it’s going to go straight up so it’s not going to pool in low-lying areas,” Johnston said. “You may smell it but it’s not that strong that it will be an issue. It’s not toxic so you’re not going to get sick from it.”

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