Evacuation of 10-block Area in San Jose Extended until Early Evening

The San Jose Fire Department said today that residents of a 10-block area evacuated since Wednesday afternoon by a gas line rupture will not be able to return to their homes "early evening."

"At this time, the area under evacuation orders is expected to remain in place until early evening," the Fire Department tweeted at 11 am Aug. 26.

A small area surrounding the intersection of Race Street and Park Avenue will remain closed to vehicular traffic for an indeterminate amount of time as PG&E continues restoration work in the area, officials said. That area includes even and odd addresses from 153 to 245 Race Street and 212 Grand Avenue to 102 Park Avenue.

In a press release, fire officials revealed that firefighters first responded to reports of a gas leak near the intersection of Race Street and Park Avenue at approximately 9:46am.  "After assessing the situation with PG&E representatives on site, the larger SJFD response left the scene with one engine remaining to address any potential hazards," the statement said.

PG&E determined it was an 8-inch natural gas line that had been struck by a third-party contractor, officials said.

"Due to the leak occurring underground, the gas was not able to vent and accumulated underground. This posed a greater risk to the surrounding area and San José Police Department was called in to help establish a safe perimeter and assist with door-to-door evacuation notices" beginning Wednesday afternoon. Approximately 325 homes were affected by the evacuation.

During the investigation, it was determined that the third-party contractor, not affiliated with PG&E, struck the gas line with mechanical equipment in an area that had utility lines properly marked for the construction work. In this case, the contractor was supposed to be hand-digging within two feet on either side of the gas line that was struck, the fire department said.

"Using mechanical equipment in a marked area is prohibited due to the high risk of hitting underground utility lines and causing an unsafe situation," the department's press release said.

San José Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services had established an evacuation shelter at the Bascom Community Center on Wednesday afternoon. One hundred individuals sought information and shelter from the center, and thirty-four residents received overnight accommodations from the American Red Cross. The Bascom Community Center was closed late Wednesday night, but has been reopened for any residents who are in need of shelter.

The evacuation area is a mix of residential and commercial located several blocks west of the San Jose Diridon station.

The area is bordered by W. San Carlos Street on the south, Meridian and Mariposa avenues on the west, W. San Fernando Street on the north and by Rainier Street and Lincoln Avenue on the east.

PG&E had initially hoped that the ruptured gas line could be capped by midnight. Emergency responders initially were allowing residents to return home under escort to retrieve pets, but that was stopped when officials determined conditions were not safe.

The public can sign up here for alerts for this incident.

Bay City News contribute to this report.

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