Construction crews working in northeast Wichita hit a natural gas line about 1 p.m. Saturday, prompting a fire and the evacuation of nearby homes.
The fire at Fountain and East 13th Street was extinguished about 4 p.m. when Kansas Gas Service workers shut off the valves controlling the gas, said acting Wichita Fire Battalion Chief Michael Wells.
There were no injuries, and no nearby houses caught fire or were damaged, Wells said.
The massive blaze was visible for blocks, and traffic was blocked along 13th Street between Hillside and Oliver. Drivers were diverted for several hours, even after the fire was out. Wichita police Sgt. Ron Hunt said 13th from Roosevelt to Pershing would remain closed “probably at least through the night” while Kansas Gas Service checks for other leaks along the gas line.
About 20 to 25 people were evacuated from houses a block east, west and north of the blaze. They were sheltered near the scene in a bus belonging to the fire department.
By 6:15 p.m., those displaced were allowed to go home, Wells said.
Capt. Mike Crosby said fire crews originally were dispatched after receiving a report of a house fire at 13th Street and Fountain at 12:52 p.m., but the first units to arrive on the scene noticed a huge plume of fire shooting into the sky and recognized that a large piece of heavy construction equipment had struck a gas line. That equipment suffered the only damage from the fire.
The location of the blaze was advantageous, as far as posing any further threat, Crosby said. A golf course is to the south and there no houses in the immediate area.
Hose lines were connected to keep the houses closest to the fire cool, he said.
Firefighters were concerned about the supply of water because the hydrants along 13th Street have been shut off during construction, Crosby said, but extra tenders carrying water were brought to the scene.