REPUBLIC - Republic-Michigamme Schools are back in session today after students were sent home early Tuesday when a propane gas line was struck, causing a fire and severe damage to the gas system.
A work crew was installing a fence around new propane tanks when the gas line leading from the tanks to the school building ruptured. Next to the tank is a vaporizer system that has a flame and ignited the gas, causing a fire that engulfed the hole-drilling equipment and surrounding area, school Superintendent/Principal Paul Currie said.
"The tanks are located on one side of the school, so we safely evacuated the students and faculty out the other side away from the fire," Currie said. "Nobody was hurt."
The work crew turned off the gas and the fire department was called to put out the equipment that was on fire. The ruptured gas line feeds the propane boilers that heat the school. For this reason, parents were contacted and students were sent home early.
"Once the gas was shut off and the fire was extinguished, we had the students waiting in the opposite side of the building from the tanks with their teachers," Currie said. "We had to contact parents and make sure there was somebody who would be home for the kids, which took a couple of hours to do."
The equipment used, the gas line and portions of the gas delivery system were severely damaged. A temporary propane tank is being set up and hooked into the undamaged existing gas line to heat the school while the damaged one is being repaired, Currie said. The temporary line will be above ground and have a fence put around it for safety, he said.
"The really good part was no one was hurt, including the worker," Currie said. "It could have been a lot worse."
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401.