Allentown
79° F
Mostly Cloudy
Mostly Cloudy

Gas leak prompts evacuation of homes in Reading

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Dec 04 2012 03:33:28 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 05 2012 04:53:46 AM CST

Officials: Thieves cause gas leak scare

READING, Pa. -

It was a close call for several families in Reading. Fire officials said a gas leak inside a home was so large it only needed a spark to cause an explosion.

Fortunately, families were evacuated, the spark didn't happen and the gas was shut off before anyone was hurt.

Thieves could be responsible for the scare. Reading's deputy fire chief said a water heater was stolen from the vacant home where the natural gas leak originated.

About ten homes were evacuated in the 1300 block of North 11th Street in Reading.

"Gas ain't nothing to play with," said Jonathan Martinez.

Martinez said his 90-year-old grandmother smelled the gas first.

"There was a really strong smell in my house so I decided to call in," said Martinez.

UGI made it to his block quickly. They discovered the leak wasn't in his home.

"Right away they told us to evacuate the house and the found there was a gas leak next door," said Martinez, "They shut it off."

UGI said they found the natural gas leak in a home where the heater had been knocked over and the fuel line was broken.

Deputy Chief Gary Mogel said a water heater was stolen from the basement and the thieves didn't turn off the open gas line.

"They don't know that just flip a switch," said Mogel.

Mogel said the levels of natural gas were so high they were explosive.

"We urge people--You smell gas. You get out. You call," said Mogel.

Martinez said that's what he did.

"You know with a gas leak a major explosion," said Martinez, "I watch movies. That's what you see, that stuff happen. So, my first thing was call it in and keep my family safe out of the house."

His 90-year-old grandmother said in Spanish, "Gracias a Dios."

She was thanking God her grandson kept her safe.

"I carried her down in the wheelchair," said Martinez, "Times like this. You gotta make moves."

Reading Police said the copper lines were cut. They're investigating this as a burglary.