CABAZON: 100 stores evacuated after construction crew ruptures gas line

CABAZON — About 100 stores at Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon were evacuated this morning after a construction crew reportedly hit and ruptured an outdoor natural gas line. The rupture, which officials at first believed could be quickly mitigated, forced hundreds of store employees to wait in the area for an all-clear signal that had still not come more than seven hours after the leak was first reported.

Cal Fire and Morongo firefighters were dispatched to the outlets at the 48000 block of Seminole Drive just after 10 a.m., after the work crew reported hitting the gas line while working outside Hugo Boss, near the east village section of the outlet mall, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire spokesperson Tawny Cabral explained in an incident report.

Although not necessary, based on the circumstances and “as a precaution,” property management officials at the outlet called for the evacuation of about 100 stores closest to and around the construction zone and cordoned off those sections of the mall. According to outlet employees and shoppers, the remaining portions of the mall remained open throughout the day.

As the event was unfolding Melvin Brown, who works as a Stockman at the outlet’s Coach store, was one of many who posted descriptions of the crisis along with videos on Facebook that showed dozens of outlet employees packed into a section of the outdoor outlet mall deemed “safe” by outlet officials.

Many store managers, having been initially told the leak could be quickly mitigated, had their employees remain at the scene and employees were forced to spend several hours milling about, with nothing else to do besides play on their smartphones and post details about the ongoing crisis.

As the hours wore on and lunch came and went, many employees began to get restless and some managers such as Brown’s felt compelled to pull out their corporate or personal credit cards and buy all their employees lunch for the day.

While welcomed, the “free” meal did little to calm the nerves of the countless employees stuck at the outlet mall with nothing to do.

Officials investigating the accident later determined “a third-party contractor” damaged a 2-inch plastic line, causing the natural gas release.

Southern California Gas Company employees were summoned to the scene to shut off gas to the affected gas line and make repairs to the damaged line but according to reports from the scene several hours after their arrival, they had not yet been unsuccessful in fixing the leak.

There were no reported injuries related to the ruptured gas line or subsequent attempts to repair it. As of this report the line remains un-repaired and officials have not speculated when the broken gas line will be repaired.

Melvin Brown/Facebook video


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Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.

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