LEBANON, Ore. - Firefighters stretching hoses around to the back of the burning house heard the rush of natural gas venting at high pressure before they saw the gas meter engulfed in flames.
A team of firefighters monitored the burning gas line while their colleagues fought fire.
"Essentially it's similar to lighting your gas stove at home," said Lebanon Fire District Division Chief Jason Bolen. "Turn on the gas, light the burner, and the flame consumes the gas being expelled with little negative effects. However, if you turn on the gas but never get the burner lit the gas will pool and disperse throughout the area and potentially find its own ignition source. When that happens, a large explosion is likely."
Then the natural gas fire suddenly went out.
Gas continued to gush from the line and pool in the area.
So firefighters switched gears from fighting the flames to evacuating the neighborhood.
"Residents were in the process of being evacuated to the intersection of 5th and Ash Streets as fire authorities contacted the City of Lebanon to request buses for temporary warmth and shelter," the fire district said in a report.
"A crew from NW Natural had just arrived on the scene and quickly worked to hand dig their way to the gas supply line in the front yard of the residence. Once they reached the line they were able to clamp off the supply of gas and secure the leak. Residents were allowed to return to their homes and firefighters resumed suppression operations."
The home was unoccupied at the time. The loss is estimated at $92,000.
The heat from the fire also cracked a window in a neighboring home.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
This is the second early morning fire in a vacant house in Lebanon in 5 days.
Firefighters were called to Tuesday's fire on W. Ash Street just before 4 a.m.
Last Thursday, firefighters were dispatched at 3:20 a.m. to a fire on Wheeler Street, where a vacant house police described as a "nuisance" went up in flames.
The cause of that fire could not be determined.