Gas leak forces school’s evacuation |

Gas leak forces school’s evacuation

Jeff Munson
Bijou Community School students file out after a natural gas leak forced the evacuation of the school Thursday.

A gas leak at Bijou Community School forced the evacuation of more than 550 students on Thursday.

The students returned to class at about 1:45 p.m., after South Lake Tahoe police and fire departments determined the gas leak was isolated to one classroom in a portable building, officials said. No injuries were reported and no one required medical attention.

The evacuation was made at about 12:45 p.m., after the leak was discovered. City police and fire departments responded to the school to block traffic and secure the site to determine how extensive the leak was, officials said.

Students and their teachers walked in an orderly fashion from the elementary school to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the street on Spruce Avenue.

Teachers Linda Loughrin and Deb Wright did a roundup of their first and second graders for the one-block walk to the church. The evacuation was much like the drills the school prepares them for if something serious were to happen, the teachers said.

“We practice all the time. It’s good when we practice because, as you can see, no panics,” Wright said, complimenting her young students on their behavior during the walk. “A lot of the students think this is a drill.”

Seven-year-old Devin Brown admitted he was frightened over what was going on but was happy he had his friends around him in case something happened.

“Do you smell gas?” he asked his friends. “I don’t smell gas but I’m scared.”

Because the leak was isolated, there wasn’t a strong odor evident on campus. But according to Superintendent James Tarwater the leak was pervasive enough to warrant the evacuation.

After authorities gave the “all clear” sign once the leak was determined not to be dangerous, students were marched back into the classroom. School officials worked cooperatively with the fire and police departments regarding the evacuation plan.

Had it not been ruled safe to return, the students would have been bused to South Tahoe Middle School where they would wait until each parent was contacted.

“The fire department determined it was isolated once we evacuated and so we returned,” Superintendent James Tarwater said. “The kids and staff did a great job” in the evacuation.

The cause of the leak was undetermined but it was within a pipe in the classroom, Tarwater said.

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