Ruptured Gas Line Fire Paralyzes City's Southside - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Ruptured Gas Line Fire Paralyzes City's Southside

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CORPUS CHRISTI (Kiii News) -

A gas fire that broke out around 11:45 a.m. Tuesday near the intersection of Saratoga and Cimarron affected a good portion of the city's southside for most of the day.

Firefighters said crews from the City's Gas Department were digging to find the source of a suspected gas leak when they struck a gas line and ignited the fire. Witnesses reported hearing a loud boom, but luckily, no one was hurt.

"I was sitting down and all of a sudden, BOOM," witness Melinda Rangel said. "By the time you know it, I saw the City with fire extinguishers trying to put it out."

"While digging, they happened to strike a gas line and that caused the fire," said Captain James Brown of the Corpus Christi Fire Department. "What we have been doing since then is trying to protect the exposures around the fire and locate the valves to cut off the gas and cut off the flow."

As a precaution, fire crews blocked off several streets, including Saratoga.

"At this point we don't want to put it out. We want to let it burn so we can find the source and stop the flow of gas," Captain Brown said. "That's basically what we're doing. That's why the fires been burning this whole time. We don't want to extinguish it. We want to allow it to burn so that it burns off the gas and we don't have gas escaping into the environment."

Also as a precaution, the CCFD asked American Electric Power Texas to cut power to the areas surrounding the fire. At one point, around 1,100 AEP Texas customers were without power, mostly in the 78414 ZIP code. The outage affected residents, businesses and even two area schools -- Mireles Elementary and Kaffie Middle School.

At Kaffie, numerous parents decided to pull their kids from school following the outage.

Corpus Christi Independent School District officials said they did not release kids early because AEP Texas told them power would be restored within a reasonable amount of time. Power was out from noon to about 2:30 p.m.

"We were in lunch," Kaffie student Hayden Brooks said. "Did everything normally up until fourth period."

"I heard that they didn't have electricity, and that there might be a potential release due to the conditions, so I just got concerned and went and picked him up for the day," parent Esther Rodriguez said.

Most of the power in the area surrounding the fire was restored by around 6 p.m. As of that time, less than 100 customers reportedly remained without power. AEP Texas said they were waiting for the fire department to give them the all clear before they restored power to those final customers.

Not only were area schools affect, but area businesses were forced to close their doors at around noon, the peak lunch-hour for many of those businesses -- businesses including Dairy Queen, Panda Express, Popeyes, Peter Piper Pizza, McAlister's Deli and Wal-Mart.

With the roads blocked off and power out, employees just had to do whatever they could manage.

"There were a lot of customers in the parking lot," McAlister's Deli employee Erica Villarreal said. "All the steamers were off. Everything. We weren't able to make any hot meals for anybody today."

Of course, nearby residential areas did not escape the effects of the fire. The fire broke out right next to the Bent Tree subdivision, a gated community on Saratoga. Rosa Mendoza, who works security for that neighborhood, said firefighters went into the gated community to look for a gas leak. The fire ignited just minutes later.

"I smelled the gas," Mendoza said. "I smelled it since I got here this morning. I parked there, I smelled it, but I didn't think anything of it."

Firefighters said there was no danger to the residents, but as a precaution, they asked a few residents to evacuate.

As of 6 p.m., the fire was still burning. 3News will continue to update you on the latest details.

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