By John Anderson
At 8:18 this morning, Auburn Police and Fire responded to a ruptured gas main on Southbridge St. where contractor R.H. White was working on the 4 inch high pressure line as part of a project to bring natural gas to the Auburn Public Library. The incident was called in by the police officer working the traffic detail at the construction site.
Southbridge St. was immediately closed from Auburn St. to Swanson Rd./Brotherton Way. As a precaution, the 732 students and faculty at Auburn High School were evacuated out the rear of the building and walked to the parking lot behind Yong Shing Restaurant. Principal Casey Handfield sent out a One Call message to all parents of the students advising them of the situation.
Shaw’s Supermarket, Bed Bath & Beyond, Bank of America and the Auburn Public Library were also evacuated. According to firefighters at all locations, the process of clearing citizens from the danger zone was quick and orderly. Firefighter Robert Vrusho said the High School evacuation was particularly impressive, and all involved handled themselves well.
It took about 25 minutes to stop the flow of gas, and NSTAR crews expect to be on the scene for the balance of the day to replace the damaged section. All the evacuated buildings were checked for natural gas by NSTAR and Auburn Firefighters using a special gas meter before people were allowed to reenter. Once the high school was reoccupied, Principal Handfield sent another One Call message and thanked all involved for a well-managed emergency.
Auburn Fire Chief Stephen Coleman said everyone did a good job handling the event. The high school adapted their evacuation plan for a rear exit and the business community reacted well after receiving telephone notification from Auburn Police and Fire dispatchers. During the incident, updates were made to Auburn Fire Rescue’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.