PRINCETON — Princeton businesses in the 900 block of North Main Street were quickly evacuated by police officers around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday after a natural gas line in that area was struck and broken during an excavator dig.
Princeton Fire Department was called to the parking lot behind 910 N. Main St. According to Fire Chief Chuck Woolley, when they arrived, they found a small excavator sitting at a trench that had been freshly dug. A gas line in the alley going into one of the businesses had been struck and broken.
People on scene could hear gas spewing from the line.
Police and members from the city’s street department quickly cordoned off Main Street traffic. Woolley said they set up a perimeter of several blocks around the area to prevent traffic near the gas leak.
Woolley said the operator of the excavator was Matt Keutzer, owner of the building at 910 N. Main St., which is the building that sits between Skoonerz Grill & Bar and Annie’s Little Pots.
The fire crew quickly shut off the gas line and contact Nicor Gas, which sent out representatives to evaluate the situation. A dig crew was then called out to repair the line.
Only businesses in the 900 block of the street were evacuated, because of the wind speed and the direction of the wind, Woolley said.
“We were monitoring the air quality north of the incident, because the wind was out of the south, but we were getting no gas reading, so it was safe for those people there,” Woolley said.
Fire department crews were on scene until around 5 p.m., which was when Nicor gave the OK to allow people to go back into their buildings and pilot lights were re-lit.
“In older buildings with part of the line still being underground, you never know where that gas migrates to, and if it gets into the older basements that have the electric pilot lights with an ignition source — we didn’t want to find that,” Woolley said.