Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Public Safety

Natural Gas Leak Prompts Evacuations In National City

San Diego Fire-Rescue personnel assisting National City Fire and Police departments with a natural gas leak near the intersection of Eighth Street and Olive Avenue, May 18, 2021.
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department
San Diego Fire-Rescue personnel assisting National City Fire and Police departments with a natural gas leak near the intersection of Eighth Street and Olive Avenue, May 18, 2021.

UPDATE: 7:20 p.m., May 18, 2021

A construction crew accidentally cut through an underground utility line in National City Tuesday, prompting a roughly seven-hour gas leak that forced a street closure and evacuations of an elementary school, a strip mall and dozens of homes.

Workers excavating under a stretch of roadway in the 3400 block of East Eighth Street as part of a cable-laying project ruptured the 6-inch- diameter pipeline about 10:30 a.m., according to fire department officials.


The resulting heavy stream of escaping flammable vapors forced a closure of three blocks of the street and evacuations of Ira Harbison Elementary School, a nearby retail center and about 75 residences, National City Fire Department Chief of Emergency Services Frank Parra said.

City officials established a temporary shelter at Camacho Recreation Center in the 1800 block of East 22nd Street for those displaced by the non- injury construction accident.

San Diego Gas & Electric personnel had the leak halted as of shortly after 5:30 p.m., Parra said. Firefighters then began checking for residual gas lingering in nearby structures, drainage ditches and other spots in the neighborhood.

Authorities hoped to be able to clear residents and workers back into the area in the early evening, Parra said.

Original Story:


Elementary school students and nearby residents were evacuated Monday after construction crews cut into a natural gas line in National City, a fire official said.

Construction crews were working outside the Ira Harbison Elementary School near Eighth Street and Olive Avenue when they accidentally cut into the pipe around 10:30 a.m., National City Fire Department Chief Frank Parra said.

“A 6-inch pipe is a significant amount,” Parra said. “When crews arrived, they could see a plume of dust.”

About 120 students and teachers were on campus at the time and they were escorted off-campus. About 80 students were released to their parents, and 21 students and 16 teachers were evacuated to nearby Las Palmas Elementary School, Parra said.

About 75 homes in a 300-foot radius of the leak and businesses in the nearby shopping center were also evacuated, he said.

Those in need of temporary shelter can go to Camacho Recreation Center, 1800 E. 22nd St., which will be staffed by city personnel and American Red Cross workers until the leak is under control, National City Police Department said in a tweet.

As of 3 p.m., San Diego Gas & Electric crews were still on the scene trying to shut off the line. Parra said the utility estimated it would take about three to six hours before residents can return to their homes.

Corrected: May 28, 2024 at 7:18 AM PDT
City News Service contributed to this story. This is a developing story. We will update as more information becomes available.
KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.