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Students evacuated after gas leak

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Firefighters work to contain a gas leak that caused an emergency evacuation of the Oaks dorms, Barkley Building, Leo Hall and the Arts and Communication building Monday afternoon. The gas line was hit during construction on a fire hydrant on the north side of Oaks A building. Students were asked to stay out of their dorms for three hours and cars in the surrounding parking lots were also inaccessible as starting the ignition could trigger an explosion. / photo by Natasha Brennan

Christian Shepherd
Staff Writer

Students, staff and faculty were evacuated from the Oaks dormitory, Barkley, Barkley Annex and the Arts and Communications building on Tuesday after a gas line rupture caused by construction outside the Oaks sent toxic gas into the area.

The break triggered fire alarms at 12:56 p.m. as evacuations of the Oaks began, and the La Verne Fire Department was on the scene by 1:02 p.m., according to Fire Department reports. 

More than 40 students were moved from the dorm to outside the next-door ACB. Roughly 230 students live in the Oaks. 

Firefighters worked to establish a perimeter and remained on standby. No students were allowed inside the perimeter while the scene was developing. 

The Gas Company was able to seal the leak using a gas clamp provided by the Fire Department, until a permanent seal was made later that afternoon. 

University officials were on site to manage the evolving situation.

University Housing send a message to all students at 1:47 notifying them of the “possible gas leak.”

“It is always confusing for students whenever anything (like this) happens,” said Beau Daust, freshman computer science major who lives in the Oaks. 

Freshman business administration major and Oaks resident Christopher Reynosa, who was off campus, said he was still comforted to receive the message. 

“I feel like they were on top of it,” he said. 

Reynosa also received a text message at 4:31 p.m., a notice to students that the residence hall had been “cleared.” 

Still some students and faculty, both those evacuated from the Oaks and those subsequently evaluated from the affected academic buildings – who received notices to evacuate and/or to return at different times between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday – were confused as to whether their classes would be moved or canceled, and when they would be able to return to classrooms or offices. 

Cintas, the contracting company for the project that specializes in fire protection services, had been conducting maintenance on a fire hydrant when they accidentally nicked the gas line. 

The main threat posed by gas leaks is the potential for combustion, but there are also numerous health impacts of natural gas exposure. Among them are headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye and throat irritation, fatigue, breathing problems and, in extreme cases of close contact, pale skin or blisters, according to Healthline, a health information website. 

University spokesman Rod Leveque called the evacuation “swift and orderly,” but, as is the standard for this type of scenario, the University will use this event to improve on protocol for future alarms. 

“Every situation is unique and can serve as an opportunity to learn and improve,” Leveque said in an email. “For that reason, Campus Safety and Housing are reviewing what occurred to see if any lessons can be drawn from it.”

The remaining gas pipes were inspected and found to be in excellent condition, Leveque said. No injuries were reported.

Christian Shepherd can be reached at christian.shepherd@laverne.edu.

Students in the Oaks dorm were evacuated after a gas leak was detected on the east side of the Oaks A Building Monday afternoon. The smell of the gas wafted down E Street. Housing staff entered each room to evacuate students and open windows to air out the building. Students were not permitted to re-enter their rooms for three hours. / photo by Natasha Brennan

Students in the Oaks dorm were evacuated after a gas leak was detected on the east side of the Oaks A Building Monday afternoon. The smell of the gas wafted down E Street. Housing staff entered each room to evacuate students and open windows to air out the building. Students were not permitted to re-enter their rooms for three hours. / photo by Natasha Brennan

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