Homes evacuated after natural gas leak in east KC neighborhood - KCTV5 News

Vandals cause natural gas leak in east KC neighborhood

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People living near East 53rd Street and Norton Avenue are back home Monday afternoon.

They were all evacuated from their homes after a massive gas leak at the vacant J.S. Chick Elementary, which is a sprawling building.

Fire Capt. Brian Burgdorf said thieves caused a large pipe to fall on a 2-inch gas main. That main has been blowing gas throughout the weekend.

They had to be extra careful because the alarm systems in old buildings can trigger a spark.

"There had been a months worth of gas expelled into that building, so a months worth of gas unused in a building with power to it is not a good thing," Burgdorf said. "It was not a good situation."

Fire crews evacuated 12 nearby homes.

Residents will be able to smell gas seeping out of the school building for a while, but officials say it is just dissipating into the atmosphere without 

The Kansas City School District closed Chick in part because it didn't have air conditioning. Supporters of the African-centered school wanted to merge the elementary, middle and high schools into one campus.

Jackie Davis said she and her three children attended Chick Elementary. She said the vacant building has become a target for criminals.

"The windows have been broken out, the doors have been kicked in," she said.

Davis was among those evacuated including those at a daycare.

Davis said she hopes that the district is able to find a viable buyer for the vacant building. She said a retirement home would be a good addition to the neighborhood.

In the meantime, she will be anxious about what damage vandals could wrought.

"It's really scary," she said. "I'll worry about it (a possible explosion) from now on."

KCTV5's Alice Barr and DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.

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