Evacuation over after leak

McCUTCHENVILLE – All residents forced from their homes due to a gasoline leak Wednesday were back to their residences by about 8 p.m. Thursday, about 18 hours after the leak was noticed.

A person had reported at 2:36 p.m. Wednesday an odor of gas in a residence, and the report prompted an investigation. The fire department was alerted at 3:04 p.m.

“That’s when they had people respond (to the fire station). It’s been ongoing ever since,” said Dean Henry, Seneca County’s public information officer, Thursday morning.

Nearly 70 people were evacuated from homes after gasoline escaped from an underground storage tank and entered the storm water system. Vapors were detected in homes and businesses, and officials suspected it originated at the village’s Clark station.

It was unknown how much fuel leaked. Henry said he did not know what happened to cause the leak and would not know for a while. He said it was his understanding that the owner of the gas station has seven days to get his tanks and lines tested before he will be allowed to reactive the fuel system.

Crews tested drainage tiles that connect catch basins in the storm water sewer system and flushed lines Thursday. Before people got back into their houses and businesses, the fire department ran vapor tests, and all of the tests came back negative for vapors, Henry said.

“(There are) a lot of exhausted firefighters, but no injuries,” Henry said.

Rescue crews were stationed at the fire station all Wednesday night.

Henry said he finds it remarkable how agencies work together, and he is amazed every time he sees it happen. Chief Bill Ennis of Tiffin Fire Rescue Division took over incident command from Chief BJ Ford of McCutchenville Volunteer Fire Department at noon so Ford could sleep.

“That change was seamless,” Henry said.

McCutchenville Volunteer Fire Department received assistance from fire departments from Bascom, Fostoria, NBS, Sycamore, Tiffin and Upper Sandusky.

“It just seemed like everything was great,” Henry said.

Personnel from Seneca County General Health District, Ohio Emergency Management Agency, Seneca County EMA, Wyandot County EMA, the Hancock County chapter of the American Red Cross, State Fire Marshal’s Office’s Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency assisted.

Henry said 38 residences, including 54 adults and 13 children, and six businesses were evacuated. Four people stayed at the American Red Cross shelter at Trinity United Church of Christ, 8919 S. SR 53, Wednesday night and two others were provided shelter elsewhere. Henry said he presumed the other evacuees stayed with other people.

Cheryl Wolfe, director of the Hancock County chapter of the Red Cross, which serves Seneca and Wyandot counties, said some people stayed most of the night in the shelter, and people were coming and going.

“Everybody has left the evacuation center for now. They have all found places to go today,” she said Thursday morning.

Red Cross personnel were on call Thursday in case they needed to return to the scene, she said.

Residents who smell a fuel odor or experience nausea, headaches or unexplained medical symptoms should evacuate and call 911, according to a release.