Firefighters and utility crews were working Thursday to clear and make safe a popular shopping area in northwest Portland, OR, that was whacked by a natural gas explosion caused when a third-party contractor punctured one of utility NW Natural's distribution pipelines early Wednesday morning.
The incident occurred close to 9 a.m. PDT and the gas was under control in less than an hour, a spokesperson for NW Natural said. Eight people were injured, including some firefighters responding to a gas leak, and there were no fatalities, the utility said.
There was a delay between the leak (8:55 a.m.) and the explosion and fire, which happened nearly 45 minutes later (9:38 a.m.), according to local news media reports.
As a result, the Portland-based gas-only utility shut off service to 115 customers in the area, and warned that additional customers could be without their gas service because of a related shutdown of electric service in the area. NW Natural crews checked all structures within 300 feet of the blast along Northwest 23rd Ave.
NW Natural crews completed leak surveys in a two-block radius of the blast and continued to monitor infrastructure while coordinating with the Portland Fire Department and the Red Cross. The utility provided shelter for anyone displaced.
"We are fortunate that these kinds of incidents are very rare, but public safety is our absolute priority so we continually train our crews to be ready to respond quickly," said NW Natural CEO David Anderson.