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Broken wires, burning gas line trap residents in O'Hara

Matthew Santoni
| Monday, June 19, 2017, 4:45 a.m.
A tree pulled down wires, started a transformer fire and broke a gas line along Saxonburg Boulevard in O'Hara on Monday, June 19, 2017.
A tree pulled down wires, started a transformer fire and broke a gas line along Saxonburg Boulevard in O'Hara on Monday, June 19, 2017.

Saxonburg Boulevard was temporarily closed, one home was evacuated and dozens of O'Hara residents were stuck in their homes after a chain reaction set off by a falling tree caused a gas line to burst into flames overnight.

O'Hara Township police Superintendent James R. Farringer said a falling tree near the intersection of Saxonburg Boulevard and Brownshill Road pulled down live wires and may have damaged a four-inch gas line that formed a "T" beneath the intersection at about 11:45 p.m. Sunday.

The arcing power lines appeared to have ignited the gas and caused a fire that burned for hours around a pipe culvert running underneath the road, Farringer said.

"We had flames coming out both sides," he said. "Our concern was about the integrity of the road."

With authorities also concerned about the gas building up and causing an explosion, one home close to the fire was evacuated.

Crews from Duquesne Light de-energized the fallen wires, and Peoples Natural Gas crews closed valves to shut off the flow of gas feeding the flames at about 5 a.m., said Peoples spokesman Barry Kukovich. But the fire continued to burn for another hour as the remaining gas inside the line escaped.

"There was a lot of residual gas in the line to burn out," Kukovich said.

Just over the township line in Shaler, Saxonburg Boulevard was closed for a PennDOT bridge replacement project, leaving about 40 households stuck with no way out between the bridge closure and the fire.

Farringer said those residents were being asked to shelter in place until PennDOT inspected the culvert and cleared it to reopen Monday afternoon. Emergency vehicles will still have access to the area, he said.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660, or on Twitter @msantoni.

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