Seniors from the May Bennett Wellness Centre wait in the parking lot of the Gurdwara Guru Amardas Darbar Sikh Temple on Davie Road in Kelowna Friday morning while FortisBC, the Kelowna Fire Department and the RCMP respond to a gas leak at the corner of Highway 33 and Davie. A contractor working for Rutland Waterworks struck a two-inch gas line while digging up the waterline around 10:22 a.m. The rupture prompted the closure of Highway 33 in both directions, and the May Bennett Wellness Centre was evacuated along with nearby residences.
At 10:22 a.m., Kelowna RCMP members and the fire department responded to the threat of fire and explosion after a contractor reportedly working for Rutland Waterworks shut off the water supply but hit a two-inch gas line at the corner of Highway 33 and Davie Road.
While hissing natural gas spewed straight up from the break, 50 people were evacuated from the May Bennett Wellness Centre at the intersection. Nearby townhouses were also evacuated with everyone heading south to the Gurdwara Guru Amardas Darbar Sikh Temple at 230 Davie Rd.
Platoon Cpt. Tim Light of the Kelowna Fire Department said the contractor was digging to service a waterline.
RCMP Const. Marty Walker said several nearby houses may have been evacuated as well. A half-dozen RCMP members closed the highway from Ziprick Road by Costco east to Bryden Road until noon while a Fortis crew shut off the gas flow.
"Everything was taken care of right away," he said.
An ambulance was on standby at the scene and Transportation Ministry officials also attended. A ministry contractor is currently grinding off old pavement and repaving this section of the highway.
Dean Book, who lives at 195 Davie Rd., at Saskatoon Road, was alerted by a neighbour to the gas leak only 65 metres away.
"What a stink down there. It just stinks of natural gas," said Book. "I just got home. I thought it was water gushing, then somebody knocked at the door and said: 'You'd better get out of here. I think they're evacuating everybody.'"
Barb Van-Thomas of 115 Homer Rd. admitted: "I'm too sick to be worried. Low blood sugar and I'm weak. I can't be out here. It was a little scary (when she was told to evacuate)."
Carroll Molyneaux of 130 Bryden Rd. couldn't sleep until 6 a.m. Friday due to the noise of the grinding machine, which shook her house, and the smell of fresh asphalt on nearby Highway 33. She wasn't even aware of the gas leak a short distance down the street until it was pointed out by an Okanagan Saturday reporter.
"They didn't evacuate us. Nobody's been around. You'd think they would come and ring the door bell. Nice of them to tell us," she said sarcastically.
"Usually the wind blows from the west to the east, so we might be OK," said her husband, Jim. "I know the (new) pavement was stinking last night. If we come back from shopping and the house blew up, then we'll know we should have been evacuated."