Construction worker injured in gas fire in the Nations

WSMV's Tosin Fakile has the latest.
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 1:23 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A man was taken to the hospital after a gas main ruptured and caused huge flames at a construction site in the Nations area in Nashville on Friday.

It happened California Avenue and Centennial Boulevard.

The flames burned for about two hours until Piedmont Gas could turn off the gas. Nashville fire officials say the flames kept going for that long because Piedmont Gas had to work through their process safely for turning the gas off.

Those who work nearby said they heard an explosion.

“I was out here working on my grill cooking, my fabulous barbecue ... and we just heard this explosion. This boom,” said Chef Troy Stovall at Juke Joint Café, located down the street from where the incident happened. “I saw this big flame. I mean, it’s bigger than what it is now, and it was coming out the ground and stuff. All of a sudden, all the power went out. So, we had to shut down and turn the customers away.”

Kendra Loney with the Nashville Fire Department said the fire department is sensitive about calling fires explosions, but “this time, there was actually an explosion that occurred.” Loney said the incident started in a manhole that was created by a construction crew.

“That person inside the manhole was working on a gas main and either over pressurized it or used a tool that caused a spark, and that spark caused a main to rupture and create a flame that looks like a fire,” Loney said.

The flames burning as a result of the gas rupture was a good sign, according to officials.

“It’s really the gas that is burning off. It’s something we like to see when a line ruptures because we can identify where that rupture is very easily. Because gas is invisible, you can’t see it to the naked eye, but you can hear it,” Loney said. “In this case very loudly because the line was pressurized, and it was putting off a lot of pressure, which is why you got big flames in the air, which was a concern to the residents in this area.”

While keeping an eye on the big ball of flame, firefighters also had to make sure it didn’t spread to the rest of the construction site had materials with wood and fuel.

“Then, there’s the building itself that is made of steel, and steel can only take up to a certain amount of heat before the structure itself is compromised,” Loney said. “So, we had to work to make sure we were cooling off steel. Putting water on those pieces of equipment to make sure it didn’t burn up itself.”

Officials said the gas line was a large one that sort of feeds that entire neighborhood area in the Nations. As of 5 p.m., some businesses had to operate a different way because the gas was still turned off at that time.

“The low hanging lines are telephone lines and cable lines,” Loney said. “Those lines were compromised from the flames burning off from that gas and the lines were right above those were NES Power lines.”

One construction was taken to Vanderbilt for minor burn injuries, according to fire officials.