Gas company crews are finally done checking every home in Bellevue and relighting all the pilots for furnaces, water heaters and other home appliances. On Wednesday a man on a bulldozer was leveling some land at a construction-equipment dealership in Bellevue, the town southeast of Dubuque when he hit a gas line.
Mike McGowan with Northern Natural Gas Pipeline Company says they got the call from local emergency responders about ten Wednesday morning. The 9-1-1 center reported to Northern that its pipeline was ruptured, gas was burning, and a bulldozer was on fire. They also told the pipeline company that one person was hurt and had been taken to a hospital, though they didn’t know then how badly he’d been hurt.
The operator of the bulldozer was identified as Josh Scheckel, who was airlifted from a local hospital to Iowa City with burns on his face and hands. He’s expected to recover from his injuries. The fire call was just the beginning for the gas company, which shut off the gas so the fire went out.
Crews from Northern Natural came to repair the pipeline and more work was in store for Aquila, the local utility. Aquila personnel went all over town to light the pilot lights on equipment that had gone out when the natural gas service was interrupted. They put in floodlights at the scene of the incident, so pipeline crews could work into the night repairing the line.
The pipeline was back in service about 10:30 that night, and Aquila crews worked late, started up again on Thursday and got all customers’ appliances back to normal operation by Thursday afternoon. McGowan says the pipeline company’s held plenty of emergency disaster drill just to prepare workers for this kind of fast response.
They have a formal process in place to work with local emergency responders and the local distribution company to respond and get service back on-line as quickly as possible.
Investigation continues, and while McGowan stresses they’re not absolutely sure the workman failed to call Iowa One-Call, there’s been no record found yet that he tried to get the location of utility lines marked before he fired up the bulldozer.