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The Daily Tar Heel

Construction Sparks Gas Fire

The fire started when a gas main broke around 9 p.m. Tuesday. The fire burned for more than two hours, officials said.

At least five trucks, from both the Chapel Hill and Carrboro fire departments, responded to the scene -- Walker's BP Service, located at 1500 E. Franklin St. -- around 9 p.m. A light pole, a construction backhoe and a pickup truck also were damaged in the blaze.

The station sits on the corner of East Franklin Street and Estes Drive.

A member of the construction crew was taken to UNC Hospitals around 9:30 p.m. A fellow construction worker said the man suffered second-degree burns to his arm and first degree burns to his face.

The gas company PSNC Energy, a Scanna Company, cut off the gas lines at around 10:30 p.m, an official speculated. Three employees from PSNC dug a ditch off Estes Drive, attempting to slow the flow of gas to the blaze.

David Lee, a pipe layer for Thalle Construction Company, said the company has worked on the site for about four weeks. Lee said there were about four other workers on the site besides himself at the time of the incident. The workers were laying a water main. "We had just got started, and I guess (the pipe) was right where the edge of the road was," he said. "We weren't even a foot and a half deep."

Motorist Susanna Rodell, of 2604 Orange Chapel Clover Garden Road, said she was waiting at the intersection to take a right turn onto Franklin Street.

"I was sitting there waiting to turn right and the thing just exploded," Rodell said. "Just a huge ball of flame went up in the air in front of us. I opened the door and just yelled to my daughter to get out and run."

Her new green Ford F-150 pickup ignited within minutes, she said. "I'd been waiting to buy that truck for so long. ... It was tough watching it go up in flames."

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