A SERIOUS gas leak saw the main street of Bombala shut down last Thursday afternoon, with NSW Fire and Rescue working with Police to stop traffic and lower the risk to nearby businesses and shoppers.
Council workers inadvertently damaged a large gas pipe while digging at the rear of Bombala Electrical around midday on the Thursday, with Triple 000 being contacted immediately.
The Bombala NSW Fire and Rescue Brigade were quickly on the scene, and found a large stream of gas being emitted from the ruptured pipe, with wind blowing the gas into the main street.
The brigade immediately set up two hose lines near the pipe to fan the gas away from the main street towards the river.
Although the brigade had the right equipment to plug the gas leak, the official procedure currently in place is for gas fitters to travel from Cooma for the task.
This meant the brigade had to ramp up their efforts to prevent the situation from becoming more volatile as critical time passed waiting for the Cooma personnel to arrive.
The brigade of course had to secure local businesses, closing the nearby Pizza Shop, and taking precautions such as shutting down the large freezers at IGA and closing rear doors to all businesses on that side of the street.
The crew also closed all entrances to the main street and Therry Street with assistance from local Police, and drivers already parked in the street were asked not to start their engines.
Gas could be smelt very strongly, but those in the main street seemed unalarmed throughout the leak.
“It was a more volatile situation than many people in the street actually realised, and the focus was of course on safety,” Terry Lomas of NSW Fire and Rescue said.
“You have to have just the right mix of gas and oxygen for the worst to occur, but you can’t be certain what may ignite the gas in a situation like this, so we had to minimise traffic to prevent things like cars backfiring.
“Unfortunately, during the most volatile time of the incident, we had a couple of motorists ignoring the road closure, going so far as to remove unattended barriers in Therry Street in order to park their cars.
“The next time a situation like this takes place and we have people ignoring closures, they will be dealt with severely,” Mr Lomas said.
It was over an hour before the gas fitters from Cooma arrived, but once they were in Bombala the gas leak was quickly cut off and repairs to the pipe began.
This left the brigade to go through nearby business houses with a gas detector to ensure that the gas remaining in the buildings was not at a dangerous level.
Concerns have now been voiced over why the community must wait so long for natural gas to be shut down in a leak situation of this kind when the equipment for the job is at hand locally.
Where once local Essential Energy crews were able to shut down the gas during a leak, since the company has changed to another gas server, the job has been allocated out of town.
Mr Lomas said this would be brought up at the next Local Emergency Management Committee meeting.