NEENAH - An explosive level of natural gas threatened a Neenah neighborhood Sunday morning, prompting an overnight evacuation. Dozens of families were forced out of their homes as a safety precaution, while firefighters worked to eliminate the threat of an explosion.
The gas leak was discovered at 1331 Gillingham Road in Neenah around 1 a.m.
The odor of natural gas in the air along Gillingham Road in Neenah overnight prompted an emergency call to the Neenah-Menasha Fire Department.
"Started our investigation with We Energies and discovered that we had a building that was full of an explosive level of natural gas," said shift commander Dan Schultz who told FOX 11 it took firefighters and We Energies about two hours to pinpoint the source of the gas leak.
It was coming from a vacant building at 1331 Gillingham. Schultz told us the scenario was dangerous.
"The building was in a situation where if it was given a heat source it could've ignited," he explained.
Around 3 a.m., firefighters and Neenah police evacuated people from the Primrose Apartments about 250 feet away. They also evacuated the Mobil gas station across the street, the only open business in the area at the time.
"We emptied out about 28 apartments in the area to give us a kind of safe zone around the area," said Schultz.
Some of the evacuees spent the next few hours at the Neenah Police Department.
During that time We Energies and firefighters worked to ventilate the building of the gas built up inside.
"We started with some natural ventilation, just opening up the doors, to get the levels to drop a little bit and then we used an electric fan that was able to push some air through the building," explained Schultz.
According to Schultz, by 6:30 the natural gas levels were much safer, and residents were allowed back into their apartments.
Schultz told us it's lucky someone smelled the natural gas, because the situation could have been building for days.
"We think a valve or something leaked within the building and it's been building up over time to a level that was explosive," explained Schultz.
Firefighters remained on the scene until about 9 a.m. when all the gas had been ventilated from the building.
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