Chester residents react to mandatory evacuation - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Chester residents react to mandatory evacuation

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(Source: Shirley Schirmer) (Source: Shirley Schirmer)
(Source: Chester FD) (Source: Chester FD)
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  • Chester residents evacuated due to gas leak

    Chester residents evacuated due to gas leak

    Saturday, August 16 2014 5:59 PM EDT2014-08-16 21:59:55 GMT
    Hundreds of Chester, Illinois residents are being evacuated due to gas leak caused by a downed power line. That's according to fire crews on the scene.
    Hundreds of Chester, Illinois residents are being evacuated due to gas leak caused by a downed power line. That's according to fire crews on the scene.
CHESTER, IL (KFVS) -

Chester residents are back in their homes after a gas leak and fire forced fire crews to evacuate dozens of homes early Saturday morning.

According to Fire Chief Marty Bert, the department received a call of a car fire near the 1500 block of Swanwick Street at about 5:30 a.m. First responders noticed a down power line in addition to the flames. They notified the power company to shut off power to the area and attempted to use a dry chemical extinguisher to combat the flames.

“The power line dropped, we don't know what caused the power line to fall,” Bert said.

Bert says the ground kept flaming up every time crews attempted to extinguish it which led them to believe there was a gas leak from underground lines.

Bert says the down line came in contact with a nearby street sign, giving the electricity a path to travel.

“There's a street sign there that went into the ground. [It] went right to the went right to the four inch gas line that runs through town,” Bert said. “So that caused an arching which created a hole in the four inch gas main.”

At that point, fire crews took what they say was a precautionary measure to evacuate people in a four block radius.

City gas crews were called in and gas was shut off to about 500 of Chester's homes.

Neighbors describe the unlikely chain of events as something from a horror film.

"I open the door and saw the lights outside and surprise, my car was on fire," said Chester resident Phyllis Moutray.

Moutray was the only one to suffer property damage from the fire. Even with her van destroyed she considered herself and her neighbors lucky.

“Our homes could have gone up in flames and we could have lost everything we had,” Moutray said.

Bert says it took a team of about 50 people from two fire departments, gas workers, and electric workers to get the situation under control and back to normal.

"It was an all day ordeal and I think it worked out real well,” Bert said.

Ameren Illinois maintains the power lines involved in the incident and as of Saturday they offer their own explanation of what happened.

Ameren says preliminary reports from their electrical workers show a vehicle struck a gas line apparatus and a fire broke out. They say it was the fire that caused the power line to fall.

Chief Bert says there was no other vehicle involved, besides Moutray's van, which he says was parked there all night before flames erupted.

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