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Homes evacuated after gas line blast near Pittsburgh

By Sommer Brokaw

Sept. 10 (UPI) -- A large gas line exploded in western Pennsylvania Monday, setting off a fire and evacuating a number of homes in the area, authorities said.

The explosion occurred just before 5 a.m. Monday in Beaver County, in Center Township, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Police shut down part of Interstate 376 because of fallen power lines.

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The line is owned and operated by Energy Transfer.

Center Township Police Chief Barry Kramer said there was an immediate evacuation of more than two dozen homes.

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"Some of those evacuees required medical assistance, not because of injuries, but because of medical conditions," Kramer said.

The evacuees were taken to the Center Township fire hall where the American Red Cross is assisting with food and other supplies.

No injuries were initially reported, but there was significant structural damage.

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"There was damage to a house burned, a garage burned, multiple vehicles burned," Kramer said. "So there was a threat and it was immediate.

"Had this fire continued to burn out of control I'm quite sure that there would have been more residual damage."

Sam and Joyce Rosati and their 10-year-old niece were able to get out of their house as the blast destroyed their home.

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"They lost everything," neighbor Tom Demarco said, adding that a barn on their property also was destroyed, and he wasn't sure if the horses usually kept in the barn made it out safely.

"We did rescue some horses," Kramer said.

A pipeline company representative said the valve was shut off but "took time to burn the gas that was remaining in the line out."

The explosion also collapsed some high-tension power lines in the area.

The fire is out, but the cause is unknown.

The public utilities commission will be the independent regulatory commission investigating the cause along with the fire department.

The 24-inch gas line 3 feet below the surface opened earlier this month, Kramer said.

Peoples Gas is checking meters to see if it's safe for displaced residents to return home.

Six high-tension towers collapsed and about 1,500 people lost power.

Central Valley School District canceled all classes Monday due to the fire.

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