Fire Department Response To Natural Gas Emergencies

As a service provider to the general public, fire departments are called upon to investigate gas odors these days. Most of the time these incidents can be classified as minor in nature and very little effort on the fire department's behalf will be...

Not all responses for natural gas leaks and fires will occur in a structure or excavation sites some will be in manholes or vaults. These responses will require the barricading off of the area to assure the safety of everyone. Fires in manholes should not be extinguished; however, fog spray should be used to cool the immediate as is the area around the manhole or vault. If vaults are open and gas lines or valves are visible, a fine spray on equipment in the vault is helpful, but do not extinguish the flames and avoid flooding of the vault or manhole. Never enter a manhole or vault the utility company's responsibility as they know what to expect once inside. Have nearby basements checked for odors and possible seepage. Keep all forms of ignition away, including our apparatus, if there is no fire and never park our fire apparatus over the top of a manhole in the immediate vicinity as they have been known to blow from time to time.

Treat all natural gas incidents with the same respect we would other incidents; wear all the proper personal protection equipment and SCBA as other hazards can be present from time to time at these types of incidents. Incomplete combustion of gaseous fuels will elevate the carbon monoxide levels and displace oxygen in the area, creating a highly toxic environment within which to work. Asphyxiation can occur either from suffocation due to the lack of oxygen or from the toxic fumes. A broken or plugged vent pipe from an appliance or furnace can cause toxic effects. Be prepared!