SOUTH BEND — A natural gas leak in a former church led to the brief evacuation of nearby homes on the city’s south side Tuesday. Sometime about noon, three Memorial Hospital employees came to get items at the old church building at 1701 E. Ireland Road, east of York Road. Memorial bought the property in 2006 and now uses it only for storage, said hospital spokeswoman Maggie Scroope. The workers smelled gas, so they didn’t go inside. Rather, Scroope said, they called a contractor who does maintenance on Memorial properties, who then called the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. NIPSCO spokesman Mike Charbonneau said the gas company got the call just after noon and had a crew at the scene in less than 20 minutes. That crew noticed the gas meter spinning quickly, a sign of a leak, and immediately shut off the gas to the building and called the fire department, he said. Firefighters evacuated homes in a block to the north and south and five houses to the east and west, Battalion Chief David Maenhout said. Directly to the east, firefighters asked people inside of Memorial’s MedPoint clinic to go to northeast side of that building. It wasn’t long — by about 1:30 p.m. — that residents could return home. David Babbitt, a line servicer for American Electric Power, said he also came and briefly disconnected the electricity to the old church building until the situation was under control. Charbonneau said a boiler in the building is being investigated as the source of the leak. Just two weeks ago, a gas leak led to an explosion that destroyed a four-unit condominium on the city’s northwest side. It was triggered by a contractor that hit a gas line. No one was hurt. And the precautions taken today, officials said, were typical for a gas leak. Staff writer Joseph Dits: firstname.lastname@example.org (574) 235-6158
Harry Reid evacuates his niece and his grandmother from a home on Glenlake Drive Tuesday afternoon after a gas leak at a church on Ireland Road just west of Ironwood Road.
Tribune Photo/JIM RIDER