The source of the natural gas leak on Tuesday night that forced an evacuation of the Avalon Shelton complex on Canal Street was eventually found in a third-floor service room. (Photos by Brad Durrell)
Once located, personnel from Eversource (previously Yankee Gas) were able to fix the problem and residents could return home to their apartments, according to Nick Verdicchio, Shelton Fire Department spokesman.
The kitchen fire that led to the initial firefighter response at the 250-unit Avalon complex was not connected to the eventual gas leak, Verdicchio said Wednesday.
What happened was that a 9-1-1 call was received about a grease file in a specific residential unit, and that fire was quickly put out. Some people in that vicinity were evacuated as a precaution during firefighting efforts.
While fire personnel were on scene, various Avalon residents began complaining they felt sick. “There was one medical after another, and it soon turned into a gas leak response,” Verdicchio said.
Gas meter readings
To be safe and due to positive findings on their hand-held gas reading meters, firefighters began to evacuate the entire building.
“We were getting hits of something, but they weren’t real high — they weren’t to explosion limits or anything,” said Verdicchio, who was part of the emergency response at Avalon.
Echo Hose Ambulance (EMS) was already at the scene and was able to assist people complaining of possible illness.
At one point, firefighters were told that someone in a room was having a seizure. They also were getting calls from relatives of elderly residents of the building asking them to check on the senior family members’ well being.
“I don’t think anyone was transported to the hospital, but it was hectic,” Verdicchio said.
Numerous fire, police, EMS and gas company vehicles were on scene, as well as dozens of emergency personnel.
Canal Street is a one-way road with on-street parallel parking on one side, so it’s not particularly wide once vehicles such as fire trucks get involved.
Firefighters from the Echo Hose, Pine Rock Park and White Hills volunteer fire companies participated in the response.
During the evacuation, a few hundred people had to wait outside and across the street from the Avalon complex. They were unable to take their cars anywhere because Canal Street was closed to non-emergency vehicles.
Verdicchio said he thinks the evacuation went well, although some people didn’t want to go outside and other people were getting impatient to get back in.
“It was getting cool outside, so people weren’t as willing to stay outside as they might be on a nice summer night,” he said.
Eventually, Avalon residents were given the option of going inside the lobby of the neighboring Birmingham condo building to stay warm. A few were dressed in pajamas, having rushed out of their rooms.
The initial firefighter response was at slightly before 10 p.m., and Avalon Shelton residents received the go-ahead to go back inside their units at about 11:30 p.m.