West Grove firefighters were roused from bed at 5:19am on Christmas morning for reports of a gas leak outside in Penn Township. The incident at Ovations at Elk View lasted for the next few hours, with crews working in pouring rain and sinking temperatures.
The Chester County 911 Center received a call from a newspaper delivery person who was making his rounds at Ovations and smelled gas. When he rolled down his car window, he could hear the rush of gas and smartly dialed 911. Arriving WGFC units found a broken gas line on the outside of the Community Center at Ovations, located on Hendrickson Lane. Initial examination showed an obviously broken line below the ground surface alongside the building's foundation. With a high pressure line leaking, and a strong risk of a potential explosion, the call was upgraded to a building response. This brought in units from the Oxford, Cochranville and Avondale fire companies.
Responding were WGFC units Rescue 22, Ladder 22, Engine 22-1, Engine 22-3 and the Ambulances. Rescue 22 arrived and was directed to the hydrant located at the intersection in front of the building a safe distance away. The crew established a water supply, and stretched 200 feet of 3" line to a gated wye, and set up two 1-3/4" attack lines directly in front of the building. Meanwhile, crews from Ladder 22 and Engine 22-3 began waking up residents adjacent to the center to evacuate their homes to safety.
PECO was notified for the gas leak, and a safety zone was established. Penn Township Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Freese was also notified, and began initial efforts to establish an evacuation point for residents at the New London WGFC Station, if needed.
When PECO arrived, the service technician did some digging around the leak area and was able to secure the broken pipe. With the gas shut off, WGFC crews made entry into the clubhouse building and found high levels of natural gas in the basement level. Crews took advantage of the strong winds blowing outside and some portable battery-powered fans to begin ventilation of the building.
After about 30 minutes, gas levels in the building dissipated and crews began picking up hose lines. It was determined by PECO that recent foundation work around the building left the gas meter unsupported. With the recent heavy rains, the ground under the meter was unstable, and the meter began to lean over, crimping and ultimately breaking the gas line leading to the building.
Units were on the scene for approximately two hours and observed Santa's taillights heading back to the North Pole as they departed the scene.