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Apartment evacuated after natural gas leak

Wednesday morning Champaign Fire Department responded to a natural gas leak on campus near the corner of Fourth and Daniel Street. (WCCU)

Wednesday morning Champaign Fire Department responded to a natural gas leak on campus near the corner of Fourth and Daniel Street.

It was determined that a third party construction company severed hit the gas line

Although the smell of natural gas lingered for several blocks on campus, students inside their apartment say they were unaware of what had happened until fire crews came banging at their doors to evacuate them.

"When the firefighters came in they started knocking at the door,” University of Illinois student Amar Dhebar said. “When we came out into the hallway that's when it hit me, I realized like wow, there's actually gas. And then when we opened the door they said go directly down the street, like don't grab anything."

One of the first things fire crews checked was the amount of gas in the air. This tells them how easily something could ignite in the area, like if someone were to turn on a car.

"We are nowhere near the explosive range,” Champaign Deputy Fire Marshal Randy Smith said. “You can see the wind changing and it's pretty variable right now, so that's part of the reason why we want to just make sure these buildings are evacuated."

Fourth Street was blocked off to both cars and pedestrians for about three hours, until Champaign Firefighters could determine the area was safe. Ameren remained on the scene until they were able to fix the problem and restore gas for their customers.

"It's in the open, so that's one of the advantages we have,” Smith said. “You know, many times if you are in a structure sometimes that gas can accumulate in the structure and become an issue."

Even though evacuations were precautionary, students say they are thankful for the fire department's quick response.

"We didn't notice, so we wouldn't have left unless the firefighters came to our door and said you need to leave now,” Dhebar said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

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