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Publish Date: 9/20/2005

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Erie Police Department Sgt. Alfredo Nevarez, left, and Mountain View Fire Protection District Capt. Chuck Gabbard stand outside of Erie Middle School on Monday. Officials emptied the school and canceled classes Monday morning after emergency crews noticed a gas odor in a courtyard outside the school.Times-Call/Brad Turner

Gas leak forces Erie school to clear out


ERIE — A potentially explosive gas leak forced staff and students to empty Erie Middle School and cancel classes Monday.

Erie police officers noticed a faint natural gas odor while exercising on the track behind the school around 10:30 a.m., Mountain View Fire Protection District Capt. Chuck Gabbard said.

A Mountain View crew supervising the police exercises investigated and evacuated the building around 10:50 a.m., Gabbard said.

“We checked the roof, checked the crawlspace, (and) found a little bit of an odor of gas,” he said.

School workers led dozens of students one block north to the school’s athletic fields while firefighters and Xcel Energy employees hunted for the source of the odor.

The leak stemmed from a broken gas line serving the school, beneath a courtyard on the building’s west side, Xcel spokesman Tom Henley said. Xcel workers shut the line down Monday afternoon.

An air-quality test performed in the courtyard revealed potentially explosive gas concentrations, Mountain View spokesman Jesse Hodgson said.

The displaced students, who occasionally participate in evacuation drills, handled the situation well, assistant principal Liza Nybo said.

The kids milled around the fields, playing pickup games of kickball. At lunchtime, the school district trucked in milk, water and dozens of pizzas, St. Vrain schools spokeswoman Nancy Herbert said.

Seventh-grader Macy Bueling said he didn’t mind the extra time outside the classroom.

“I’m getting out of schoolwork,” he said.

The school will likely reopen today, though some of the restrooms will not have hot water, Hodgson and Herbert said.

Brad Turner can be reached at 720-494-5420, or by e-mail at bturner@times-call.com.

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