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Officials responded to a report of a gas leak in Scripps Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

College Green gas leak prompts multi-building evacuations

Ohio University students in university buildings on College Green were evacuated Wednesday afternoon after construction on the National Pan-Hellenic Council Plaza resulted in a gas line leak.

Although there was no imminent risk to the campus, Cutler Hall, McGuffey Hall, Scripps Hall, Chubb Hall and Alden Library were all evacuated, Daniel Pittman, a university spokesperson said.

Athens Fire Department Chief Robert Rymer said the gas line was struck because it was not marked on the site. The department was alerted of the leak at 1:23 p.m., after the contractor who struck the line set off the fire alarms at nearby buildings. 

The buildings remained closed until around 3 p.m. when the gas line had been repaired and the fire department had ensured that there was no natural gas detected inside.

The gas line leak was too large for the fire department to fix, so employees of Columbia Gas reported to the scene to shut the open valve, Rymer said.

“Our biggest thing is to make the scene safe,” Rymer said. “We can alleviate the hazard as far as turning off a small leak; that was a large enough line leak that there was nothing we could do.”

As Columbia Gas worked to shut off the leak over the ensuing 90 minutes, the fire department, along with OU faculty and local police, blocked off the areas surrounding the construction site.

Many students who had left their belongings inside the evacuated buildings were left with no choice but to wait out the emergency from across the street.

Molly Finucane, a junior studying political science, was one of the students stranded across the street from the Alden Library. She said she and her friends had assumed it was a typical fire alarm, so she was taken by surprise 45 minutes later when the campus was alerted of the gas leak via text and email.

“I’m just happy that it’s nice out,” Finucane said.

Rymer acknowledged the inconvenience for students and staff, but he said the evacuation was a necessary precaution.

“It was great that everybody was safe,” Rymer said. “We had a lot of help with the students and all the personnel being able to stay out of the area and just let us get our job done.”

Check out Sights and Sounds from the gas leak below.


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