A worker sliced through a natural gas line behind a Central Avenue business Tuesday, causing a row of businesses between Ninth Street and Gillette Alley to evacuate and shut down for the morning.
Richard Caldron, owner of Caldron’s Jewelers and the 90-plus-year-old building it is in, said the smell lingered through the afternoon and made everyone especially cautious of the fire hazard.
“One little spark and everything would have gone up in flames,” he said. “We had to turn off everything inside; everything electric, everything with a pilot.”
Bernie Dietz, owner of Dietz Irrigation, said his company has a contract to take out an old underground fuel tank behind Caldron’s building. As they started to excavate at about 8:30 a.m., a worker used a concrete saw to cut through a walkway right behind the rear wall and accidentally cut through a three-quarters-inch gas line.
Dietz said he didn’t expect to find a gas line about 2 inches below the concrete.
“The code is that it should be buried 18 inches below surface, not 2 inches,” he said.
Jeff Lopes, supervisor of the Pacific Gas
Electric Co. crew that responded to the leak, said PG
E had previously marked the walkway to indicate that there was a gas line just below the surface. That should have warned the demolition crew to excavate the spot by hand, he said.
“It was shallower than what they thought,” he said.
Lopes said plans show that the gas line dates back to 1948. Caldron, whose family has had its business there since 1946, said he believes the brick building dates back to 1912.
Tracy Fire Department Capt. Steve Hanlon said PG
E was called to dig down to the gas line and pinch it shut. The building’s gas supply remained off as of Tuesday afternoon, but businesses were allowed to reopen just before noon.