Fire erupts as worker hits gas line

Construction accident knocks out power to part of Fort Meade

No one injured

15-foot-high flames destroy machine

interrupt traffic

July 07, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

A construction worker digging at a new building site at Fort Meade ruptured a 6-inch gas line and set fire to a construction vehicle yesterday, post officials said.

With flames 15 feet high, the blaze continued for more than four hours from the line that runs along Mapes Road between Chisolm Avenue and Ernie Pyle Street, according to a post spokesman.

Although no one was injured in the accident, the fire caused $185,000 in damage to the machine the worker was operating, which the company, CER Contract Co. of Baltimore, called a street cutter.

Electrical power was interrupted by the fire, leaving workers in buildings from Mapes Road to Meade High School without air conditioning. Power was restored within two hours by re-routing service around the fire scene, officials of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said.

According to Fort Meade spokesman Julius Simms, the construction worker cut the line about 10 a.m. while digging a hole at the site of a new Defense Security Service facility.

Post police cut off traffic at the Mapes Road gate and along Ernie Pyle Street while county public works crews and BGE workers found the gas line and cut the flow, Simms said. No one lost gas service because of the rupture, said Jessica Brown, a BGE spokeswoman.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze by 2: 30 p.m., Simms said. The roads were re-opened shortly after, although repairs to the ruptured gas line were not completed until about 7 p.m.

Brown said she was not sure if yesterday's ruptured line was a gas main, which would typically carry 100 pounds of pressure per square inch -- enough to throw a man across a room.

She said 6-inch lines carry significantly more pressure and gas through them than a typical residential line, which carries gas at about one quarter-pound of pressure per square inch.

According to Brown, BGE is investigating whether the construction company called Miss Utility to find out if any pipes or cables were buried nearby before digging. If CER is found negligent in the case, it could be held liable for damages and repair costs, Brown said.

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