Workers installing a geothermal heating system at a home in north Lexington hit a pocket of natural gas Thursday, and the release of the gas forced the evacuation of Bryan Station High School and eight houses, Lexington fire officials said.
The school was ordered closed about 2:45 p.m., according to an email sent to parents. Buses were already on site ahead of the normal afternoon dismissal, so students were put on buses home. Students also were allowed to walk home. The dismissal area was moved behind the school in the vicinity of the football stadium.
Eight adjacent houses, including a few on Mariemont Drive, were temporarily evacuated.
Eastin Road and Mariemont were closed for a time starting at about 2:50 p.m.
The release of gas occurred at a house in the 200 block of Eastin, where workers accidentally hit a pocket of natural gas, said fire Capt. Chris Bartley.
Battalion Chief Todd Reece said later Thursday that the pocket of gas was naturally occurring, and a pipe was installed to allow the gas to vent into the atmosphere. There is no way to tell how long that might take, Reece said.
“It depends on how much gas is in that pocket in the earth,” he said.
The fire department planned to have hazardous materials crews at the scene at least until Friday morning to monitor gas levels.
Reece said the readings being taken Thursday night were within normal range, and natural gas was being detected only within 3 or 4 feet of the exhaust vent.
Reece said school could continue as usual and families could safely stay in their homes.
He said he did not know if the homeowners would continue to install the geothermal system after the gas had vented.
Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso