Cost of Allentown Natural Gas Explosion Being Tallied

The <"">Allentown natural gas explosion has cost the Pennsylvania city at least $61,000 so far, according to a report from the Allentown Morning Call. Nearly half of that – $25,341 – was incurred by the fire department in fighting the massive fire sparked by the Allentown natural gas explosion.

The Allentown natural gas explosion occurred around 10:45 p.m. on February 9, when a suspected natural gas leak in the 500 Block of North 13th Street ignited, sparking a fire that burned into the morning. According to a Bloomberg report, the pipeline involved in the blast -a 12-inch cast iron main installed in the 1920s – lacked shut-off valves. As a result, the gas feeding the massive fire was not shut off until 3:45 a.m. the next morning, and the fire was brought under control by 4:30 a.m.

The blast killed a couple in their 70s, William and Beatrice Hall, and three generations of one family — Ofelia Ben, 69; Catherine Cruz, 16; and 4-month-old Matthew Cruz. Eight homes were destroyed, and 47 other properties were damaged.

UGI Utilities Inc. said a crack in a section of the gas main could have caused the blast. Two pieces of the broken pipe have been sent to a New Jersey lab for forensic testing. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has warned in the past that such cast-iron pipes are subject to decay and in some cases in need of replacement. The federal Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 envisions replacement of such pipelines with safer materials, such as steel.

Allentown Fire Chief Robert Scheirer told the Morning Call that 30 men were on duty during the fire and an additional 20 men were hired to help. In all, 55 Allentown fire personnel worked the scene. The $25,341 accounts for overtime as well as some lost equipment, he said.

The city also paid $16,201 for police services, $6,237 for water services, $4,889 for emergency medical services and $8,201 for other services, the Morning Call said. Still not figured are costs for demolition, recovery and landfill disposal, as well as street, curbing and sidewalk reconstruction, which will likely run into thousands of dollars.

So far, UGI Utilities has paid Allentown $50,000. According to the Morning Call, a spokesperson for UGI said the company will consider paying more as the city compiles a more complete list of expenses.

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