Crews from Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR), including the Hazardous Material (HazMat) team responded to the Esplanade at Butler Plaza due to a gas main leak at Windmeadows Boulevard this morning.
Crews found that construction had caused a gas main under the road to leak; releasing gas in the area. GFR’s HazMat team began by establishing a safe zone around the incident, monitoring the gas leak with handheld and Bluetooth remote gas monitors, and using special software to model the gas plume to determine what areas needed to be evacuated and what areas needed to shelter in place.
Business in the area including Publix, Firehouse Subs, and Bonefish Grill had to be evacuated for roughly two hours due to the potential hazards from the gas.
GFR’s HazMat team is a regional team that responds to 12 counties within Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) North Central Florida region three. GFR has 190 firefighters who are dual certified as EMT or paramedics; of these, 36 firefighters are also certified as HazMat technicians. In 2019 GFR’s HazMat team responded to 526 calls for service in the City of Gainesville including cut gas lines, MVC with fuel spill, strange odors, carbon monoxide alarms, chemical spills, natural gas/propane leaks, and white powder calls.
GFR would like to remind everyone to call “811” before you dig. Nationwide, every six minutes an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without first calling 811. When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to Sunshine State One-Call, the local one call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both. Striking a single line can cause injury, repair costs, fines, and inconvenient outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811.
Photos and video courtesy of Gainesville Fire Rescue.