Incline Village High School evacuated due to gas smell, deemed unsafe

The foyer at Incline High School.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Incline Village High School was deemed unsafe for students and staff and was closed Tuesday, authorities said.

North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District and Washoe County Sheriff’s Office responded to the high school at about 7:45 a.m. for a report of the smell of natural gas.

Students were evacuated while fire crews attempted to locate the origin of the smell. No gas was detected inside the building, the fire district said in a news release, but high levels of gas were detected in multiple locations in the snow on the roof.

Due to the heavy snow load, the crews were unable to locate the origin of the leak and natural gas was turned off to the structure. Natural gas can remain trapped at high levels inside the snowpack, the district said. 

The fire district said out of an abundance of caution and in consultation with Southwest Gas, WCSO, Washoe County School Police and Washoe County School District determined it was unsafe for students and staff to be inside the building.

The school said on it’s Facebook site late Tuesday that after the gas was shut off it took crews nine hours to dig a 4-foot-deep trench through the snow to find the leak and repair it. Classes resumed on Wednesday.

NLTFPD said it has had a significant increase in gas leaks, carbon monoxide alarms, and other hazard-related emergencies resulting from repeated storms and heavy snow.

The district recommends knowing where your gas meter is located and keeping it clear. Buildup of snow around natural gas meters and piping, as well as falling ice and snow from rooftops, can create hazards for natural gas customers. When clearing snow or ice build-up around meters use a broom, not a shovel, whenever possible to avoid causing damage. Keep rooftop areas above natural gas meters and piping clear of ice, icicles or falling snow to prevent damage. Clearing the roof can be dangerous so residents are advised to leave this work to professionals.

Other tips and concerns include:

Be aware that a roof may collapse with little or no warning. The following warning signs could indicate that you have a danger of roof collapse. You should immediately evacuate the building and notify your local building official, fire department, or contact a structural engineer to determine if the building is safe if you observe the following:

  • severe or new roof leaks.
  • cracked or split wood members.
  • bends or ripples in metal supports
  • recent cracks in walls, gypboard or masonry.
  • cracks in welds of steel construction.
  • sprinkler heads pushed down below ceiling tiles.
  • doors that pop open.
  • doors or windows that are difficult to open.
  • bowed utility pipes or conduits attached to the ceiling; or creaking, cracking, or popping sounds.
  • Keep all exits clear of snow, so that occupants can escape quickly if a fire, or other emergencies, should occur. Keep in mind that windows should be cleared to allow a secondary means of escape in case the primary means of escape is blocked by fire. Keeping exits clear also allows emergency workers to gain access to your building.
  • Keep all chimneys and vents clear to prevent carbon monoxide from backing up into the building. Some vents, such as pellet stove vents, may exit the building through a wall and are susceptible to being blocked by excessive snow buildup.

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