Gas line eruption won't cause big delay to Fifth Street Renovation Project

Gas line eruption won't cause big delay to Fifth Street Renovation Project
LEWISTON, ID - A gas line explosion in downtown Lewiston created a great deal of panic Monday after contractors hit the line during their work digging with a back hoe.

The four inch Avista gas line erupted in flames, following a construction accident in which the contractor M.L Albright and Sons, ruptured the line while digging in the area along Fifth Street and Beachey.

According to Avista Communications Commander Dan Kolbet, gas lines were shut off within 20-minutes of the explosion, allowing fire crews to put the blaze out. City officials do not believe it was the contractors fault, but rather an error as to where the line was positioned.

"They did everything right to start with," said City of Lewiston Community Director Laura Von Tersch. "They called for the locations, we've been working closely with the utility companies. Every week we meet with Avista, Cable One and we're talking about where we are in the process and what's going on next."

"It looks like the contractor, right now, is doing everything right in terms of his excavation work," said TD&H Regional Manager David Witthaus. "It was just an unfortunate situation of a utility not being where it was expected. The contractor continues to work as safely as possible, he's had an excellent track record and is doing the best he can."

The Lewiston Fire Department along with Avista officials continue to investigate the incident. Kolbert says the line is temporarily secured but won't be fully restored for the next several days.

"With the water that was put on there, and the fire, it's not a simple repair that we can just complete and move on as we typically would for a dig in," said Kolbet. "We need to ensure that the pipe is ready to be repaired and do our due diligence to make sure everything is safe."

A nearby power line along with a fiber connection line were also damaged during the explosion, but have since been restored and operations are up and running. City officials said there'll be a slight delay to the completion of the project set to finish in December, however it'll just be a handful of days.

"If we slide a little bit to have a quality project, than that's where we're at," said Van Tersch.

Avista will spend the next few days digging holes throughout the area looking at lines and valves.