Gas leak closes I-5 Ridgefield interchange, businesses




A gas leak caused during excavation work for a new roundabout at Ridgefield’s South 65th Avenue and Pioneer Street intersection prompted road closures and business evacuations for more than three hours Thursday as crews scrambled to shut off gas to the line.

The leak was reported at about 1:45 p.m. after a construction worker accidentally struck the line with a Volvo backhoe at 109 S. 65th Ave., said Battalion Chief Tim Dawdy, Clark County Fire & Rescue spokesman.

The Pioneer Street exit off of northbound Interstate 5 and Pioneer Street were closed to traffic until Northwest Natural technicians were able to pinch the gas line at about 5 p.m.

One building of the Tri-Mountain Plaza was evacuated as a precaution, Dawdy said. The building includes Columbia Credit Union, Smiles Dental, Teriyaki Thai, Dharma Salon and Lava Java coffeehouse.

A general manager for Papa Pete’s Pizza in the plaza said she could smell gas all the way from Interstate 5 as she was driving in from Vancouver. The general manager, who would only identify herself as Angela, said she had to drive to La Center, take I-5 south and exit on the south Pioneer exit to reach the blockade. Then, she had to be escorted by firefighters to reach her workplace on 65th Avenue.

“You can hear the gas leaking,” the general manager said. “It sounds like loud hissing.”

Residents and guests at the Tri-Mountain RV Park on South 65th Avenue were not able to come and go until the road reopened, said Manager Mary Robertson. She said more than 50 people live at the park.

Ann Lonergan, a server at Country Cafe on Pioneer Street, said the restaurant was deserted during the leak. With no customers to serve, she said she spent the afternoon cleaning.

“It’s just a hassle,” Lonergan said.

The general manager at Papa Pete’s said that restaurant also lost most of a day’s business because customers couldn’t reach the restaurant and workers couldn’t make deliveries.

Repairs to the gas line were expected to continue until about 8 p.m. Thursday, said Northwest Natural spokesperson Melissa Moore. Gas service was not shut off for customers, except to eight customers in the Tri-Mountain Plaza, Moore said.

Businesses and residents who want to dig as part of a project are required by federal law to call 811 to find out the location of lines before breaking ground, Moore said. She said it was unclear whether that had been done in this case.