Gas line fire causes evacuation of Apollo Middle School

Justin Schecker

Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Gas line fire causes evacuation of Apollo Middle School

CREATED Oct. 18, 2013 - UPDATED: Oct. 18, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -  A gas line fire at a southside middle school forced the evacuation of hundreds of students Friday morning. 

The blaze started in a parking lot at Apollo Middle School located at 265 West Nebraska Street, Tucson Fire Department Captain Barrett Baker said.

Construction workers were using a piece of equipment to dig a trench when they hit the gas line and caused flames to ignite. 

No injuries were reported. 

Students from Apollo were evacuated and taken to Liberty Elementary School.

The elementary school was also evacuated.

As Southwest Gas crews to shut off the broken pipe, firefighters contained the flames and had the fire under control within an hour.    

As the black smoke billowed over Apollo, all Junior Contreras could think about were his two nieces inside.    

"I was pretty worried because when I first went out there I didn't know where they were at," Contreras said. "I didn't know what was going on with the kids."

Apollo seventh-grader Ivan Infante saw the smoke as his class filed out of the building.

"It was pretty scary," Infante said. "I got pretty scared."    

Sunnyside Assistant Superintendent Bernie Cohn directed both of the school evacuations. 

"Nothing is perfect until it happens, but it was pretty orderly," Cohn said. 

The Sunnyside District called parents, notifying them of evacuations and fire. Students waited outside of Liberty on the fields for parents to pick them up.      

"How nerve-wracking was this whole situation as a parent?" 9 On Your Side asked Apollo parent Jeannette Robles. 

"Well, they really don't tell you much through the phones, so you're thinking lots of things and I just came as soon as I could," Robles said.

Contractors doing underground work are required by law to call Arizona Blue Stake, which notifies utility companies when they need to mark underground lines, Southwest Gas spokesperson Libby Howell told 9 On Your Side.               

"They did not call in a Blue Stake in this instance," Howell said. 

Sunnyside officials said not checking for the underground pipes was a breach of contract by Commonwealth Electric, the company installing electrical trenches in the parking lot for a new security station. 

Late Friday afternoon 9 On Your Side spoke with a project manager at Commonwealth Electric. He could not say whether or not his company contacted Arizona Blue Stake to check for underground pipes at the middle school. 

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