04/17/12 Updated 9 p.m. Monday – A five block area near the Liberty Street Depot at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Liberty Street had to be evacuated Monday morning due to a gas leak at the burned-out facility.
Residents in the area call 9-1-1 at 9:58 a.m. Monday morning reporting a noise that they suspected was some type of alarm. When Plymouth Police arrived on the scene they immediately determined the noise to be a gas leak.
Plymouth firefighters and police officers evacuated numerous residents on Pennsylvania Avenue, Ferndale Street and LaPorte Street from Liberty on the west to Earl Street on the east. It was estimated that 50 people were moved during the evacuation.
At the time of the fire, it was determined that no utilities were on in the structure so Monday’s gas leak was a shock to first responders. It was believed that the gas line may have been tampered with during the building’s demolition.
The gas leak was in the east side of the structure that was totally destroyed in a fire on March 10th. Investigators have deemed that the fire was an incendiary fire. City police have been conducting the investigation into the fire.
NIPSCO crews were on the scene for several hours and had to wait for a special piece of machinery needed to cap the gas main at the tee on the north side of the street that feeds the building.
Originally it was thought that students at Lincoln Junior High School would need to be evacuated, but with the wind direction mainly to the east officials assured Assistant Superintendent Roger Smith that there was no danger to the students. The administration was in contact with officials and kept all students inside during the emergency.
The American Red Cross, Marshall County Chapter, responded to the gas leak to assist with the citizens who were evacuated. The Red Cross opened a shelter at the First United Church of Christ, 321 North Center Street in Plymouth. The shelter was open for the duration of the evacuation and Burger King provided a complimentary lunch for the first responders and those residents affected by the evacuation.