This story was updated at 3:55 p.m. June 20, 2013.
Washington Gas workers have clamped down a natural gas line that was spewing gas into a Germantown neighborhood for hours, forcing some families to evacuate and others to stay locked down inside their homes.
The break occurred at about 11 a.m. on a gas line near Scenery Drive and Brandermill Drive in Germantown, affecting about 240 families. Fire and Washington Gas officials have alternately reported the break in a 12-inch line and an 8-inch gas line.
“Everyone is back in their home,” said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Scott Graham, adding that about 70 families do not have gas power for their appliances.
“When [Washington Gas] repairs the line, they’ll recharge it, and then go to each home and make sure their appliances are restarted,” he said.
The repair crews shut off valves on corners adjacent to the break, he said.
“That pressure was pushing up through 5 or 6 feet of dirt,” he said. Photos posted of the break showed a cloud of vaporized gas and dirt on the deserted street.
In the zone where the gas was flammable, anything as mundane as flipping a light switch or ringing a doorbell could have caused the gas to ignite, Graham said.
“That’s why we hurried up and canvassed the neighborhood with our personnel to make sure none of that happened,” he said.
Ruben Rodriguez, a spokesman for Washington Gas, said the break had been caused by an independent contractor performing “directional drilling.”
Just before 1 p.m., workers from Washington Gas had reduced pressure and were working to repair the leak, according to Graham.
The gas line is near Capt. James Daly Elementary School. A school official said Fire and Rescue officials had told students and faculty to stay inside. Public safety officials also asked residents not to call 911 seeking information about this particular leak, and save the line for actual emergencies.
Montgomery County Police was also on scene, assisting with traffic control, said Montgomery County Police spokeswoman Rebecca Innocenti.