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Crews Stop Gas Flow Through Ruptured Pipeline, Residents Allowed Back Home

Crews have shut off the flow of gas to a 4-inch pipeline that ruptured in a neighborhood in the Oakland hills this morning, sparking an underground fire that burned for hours and caused the evacuation of nearby homes.          

The one-alarm fire was reported at Golf Links Road and Fontaine

Street at 8:24 a.m., Oakland fire Battalion Chief Lisa Baker said.         

Flames could be seen coming up through cracks in the roadway. No injuries were reported.          

Six homes were evacuated, and residents of other homes nearby were advised to shelter in place, Baker said. A hazardous materials team was called to the scene.         

PG&E crews shut off the flow of gas at 11:37 a.m.        

James Gouig, 36, who lives at that intersection with his cousin, said he was at home this morning when he heard a knock at the front door.          

At first he was annoyed because he thought it was a salesperson, he said. However, the person at the door turned out to be a neighbor telling him his front lawn was on fire.          

He looked out and saw fire burning in an odd formation that consisted of straight lines, he said.         

"It didn't look right, so I called 911," he said.          

Gouig said it was a scary experience.          

"I started thinking about the San Bruno situation and I started freaking out," he said, referring to the September 2010 underground pipeline explosion that killed eight people in that city.          

He said his next thought was what to grab from his home before fleeing; he ended up just taking his iPhone.          

Gouig told his story to reporters as he waited to be let back into his home, dressed in sweats and sandals in the chilly morning air.          

Initially, he said, he didn't know what was going on and was getting information from friends and family members who were watching the situation unfold on TV.           

Battalion Chief Baker said the pressure in the pipeline that ruptured today was 50 pounds per square inch -- much less than the nearly 400 pounds per square inch of pressure in the San Bruno pipe that burst.           

PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord reiterated that there was "much less pressure" involved in today's incident. She also said the San Bruno pipeline was 36 inches in diameter.           

She said crews' first priority was shutting off the flow of gas in the pipeline and making sure everything is safe, and that they would then investigate why it ruptured.       

She said shutting off the gas flow took a while because the pipe is located 6 feet underground and crews had to shore up the sides of a trench PG&E workers used to make the repairs.          

Some residents' gas service has been interrupted, Chord said.           

The intersection is a few blocks away from Interstate Highway 580 near Holy Redeemer College. An employee at the college said operations were normal today and no evacuations were ordered at the campus.        

Teachers, students and staff at Charles P. Howard Elementary at 8755 Fontaine St. were told by emergency crews to stay indoors, but they were not instructed to evacuate, a school employee said.

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