A small fire in El Dorado Hills Friday morning resulted in the loss of a tractor and the charring of the front lawn of a house.
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The fire was originally reported as a machinery fire at 10:19 a.m., said El Dorado Hills Fire Battalion Chief Mike Lilienthal, and when they arrived, rubber burning from the small tractor was causing “thick, black smoke.” Manzanita from the front yard of 4367 Gresham Drive was burning. The front lawn was also on fire, but was quickly put out.
A contractor broke a half-inch gas line while trenching to install a French drain, said PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno. An underground service alert had “expired for this location.”
PG&E’s main contractor, Brault Asphalt, had removed concrete where marks had been, Moreno said. They were “supposed to call 811, an underground alert for contractors. Marks do wear off or get covered with mud.”
Two subcontractors from Central Valley Engineering and Asphalt had been manning the tractor when the gas line was hit, one driving and one standing next to the auger, Lilienthal said. “Neither were seriously harmed,” but fire had erupted around both of them. They were able to jump out of the way. The driver was being taken by his business to have his health evaluated, however.
Surrounding neighbors were evacuated while PG&E employees dug up Karrie Kinsella’s front yard across the street to get to the gas line in order to pinch it off. She continued to water her lawn in the meantime. She joked that it took four workers digging a small hole to get the job done.
To stop the leak of the service line PG&E had to go across the street and dig a hole to the service line and squeeze line to close it off, Moreno said. They used special vice grips to do the job. Contractors are supposed to call 811 two business days in advance, he said. They are supposed to mark off the area they will be working in and then utilities — gas, electric, phone, water, sewer — will mark off their lines so they will know where the contractor will have to hand-dig.
As firefighters waited for the gas line to be pinched just before noon, they could only watch the small flames shooting out of the ground. The tractor had since been charred and all flammable fuels consumed, leaving a small pile of ash underneath the tractor; the fire was just the gas itself burning.
A tow truck was to haul the tractor away, and once the gas was out, the fire could be quickly and easily put out, Lilienthal said.
The flames had been 10 to 15 feet high, said Phillip Collier, the homeowner. He noted that he was “happy with the response” of the fire department, agreeing it could have been worse than burning his front lawn.