Mountfern gas leak leads to evacuation

Fire crews at a gas leak at Mountfern Centre on Thursday afternon. Staff at the building had to be cleared. PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.
Fire crews at a gas leak at Mountfern Centre on Thursday afternon. Staff at the building had to be cleared. PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

A quick-thinking member of the public averted a potential explosion at an adult learning cenre in Coleraine last week.

Two fire appliances from Coleraine and another from Portstewart were called to Mountfern Adult Centre around 2.20pm on Thursday after a passer-by detected a gas leak from a meter on the building.

Charlie McAuley, a Hazardous Materials Officer, who also attended the scene, told the Times that the immediate area at Rugby Avenue had to be evacuated.

He said: “We first got a call to the Fire Service at 2.20pm from a member of the public who was walking past the building and heard a hissing sound from a meter on the wall of the adult learning centre.

“There was an emergency number on the meter and he reported the incident as a gas leak.”

Around 20-30 people from the Mountfern Centre and some adjacent Health Trust buildings were evacuated.

Mr McAuley said: “Our immediate responsibility is to cordon off the area and carry out an evacuation of any buildings or homes in immediate danger. We also restricted any potential ignition source from the turning on of car lights or cars starting.

“The pipe connection in the meter had given way so we contacted the gas provider, Firmus, who sent out one of their engineers to locate the underground stop valve for us. It took a bit of time to locate the valve.

“Readings were taken in the immediate area and surrounding buildings to ensure that all the gas had dissipated.”

The area was declared safe around 4pm.