Homes evacuated after gas line fire in York County

Posted at 11:41 PM, Jul 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-22 12:19:02-04

York County, Va. - Firefighters call it a freak accident.

Lightning struck a natural gas line - shooting flames through the air in the Grafton area.

Mother Nature is to blame for this natural gas line fire, forcing nearly a dozen families from their York County homes last night - according to Virginia Natural Gas.

"It was thunder and lightning, and it just lingered and lingered for a long time afterwards, then all of a sudden this loud clap noise. We knew it hit something, we just didn't know what."

A long-time contractor for Virginia Natural Gas says that lightning struck a tree around 8:15 p.m. Sunday night, but the current went through the tree, straight to the ground - where you see a large hole - hitting the gas line and causing the fire.

"I came and thought somebody's house was on fire and of course it wasn't, thank God, it wasn't."

Before being evacuated - Cheryl Earl shot a cell phone video from her back deck.

"They were higher than the house."

Flames were seen as high as 35 feet in the air at one point. Fire crews evacuated 10 homes nearby just to be safe.

"We have a dog now so we had to all get her stuff then important papers because I know know if there was going to be a explosion or what."

Fortunately - firefighters were able to contain the flames, then stop the flow of natural gas after several hours without anyone being hurt - limiting the damage to any homes except for a fence.

"It was quick, it just got progressively worse even though the firefighters were here, they're right there at the front and got it under control."

Families were allowed to return home around 1:30 a.m. this morning.

Workers are now replacing about 200 feet of damaged natural gas line, but say service should be restored by the end of the day.