Three families unable to return to their houses because of gas fumes

September 05, 1998|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

Bill Bambarger, his wife and their three children have spent the past three nights sleeping at his sister's home in Ellicott City.

"Right now, we don't have any idea how long it'll take before we can move back in," Bambarger, 34, said yesterday of the Elkridge home they purchased three months ago. "I don't think it will be anytime soon."

The Bambargers, with two other families living in the 7000 block of Calvert St., were evacuated from their homes Wednesday evening after officials detected high levels of an explosive gas in their basements. They have not been able to move back in, although Bambarger said he was allowed to retrieve clothing yesterday.

Howard County Fire Chief James Heller said that fire and rescue teams will be stationed at the corner of Calvert Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m daily until the gas in the three homes is cleared away. The idea is to reassure the neighborhood during a time when people are home, and to do tests for gas.

"We will check anyone's home for gas," Heller said. "We would prefer to err on the side of caution."

Officials say they don't know when it will be safe for the three families to move back.

Officials speculate that the gas seeping into the homes, possibly methane, came from decaying materials, such as tree stumps and other garbage dumped on the property decades ago and then covered by dirt and grass.

Robert Coursey, a spokesman for Ryan Homes, the firm that built the houses in the Calvert Ridge subdivision, said that company officials distributed more than 20 gas detectors to nearby residents yesterday morning. Ryan Homes also plans to install ventilation systems in the three homes where gas was detected, he said.

Bambarger is playing it safe.

"I ran in, got what I needed and then ran out," he said after finding clothes for himself and his family. "At this point, no one should really be inside the house. It's just too dangerous."

Pub Date: 9/05/98

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