Gas pipe leak prompts brief evacuation of ARC Natomas Center


A broken gas pipe forced an evacuation of the American River College Natomas Center on Thursday, March 3, 2016. The evacuation lasted around 10 minutes, according to Natomas Center dean Frank Kobayashi. (Photo by Matthew Peirson)

Matthew Peirson

A broken pipe that caused a gas leak near American River College’s Natomas Center forced a brief evacuation of the building Thursday morning.

According to Natomas Center dean Frank Kobayashi, the leak was caused by a plumber hitting a gas pipe while working to fix a broken water pipe on the grounds of nearby Inderkum High School.

“Last week, there was a water leak at Inderkum,” Kobayashi said. “Natomas Unified School District (NUSD) contracted with a plumber to fix a broken water pipe, and the plumber hit the gas pipe.”

Inderkum and the North Natomas Library were also evacuated in response to the pipe leak.

Shelby Bowling, an ARC student, said that at first she thought the issue was more serious when her speech class was interrupted to be told to vacate the building.

“She (a staff member) made it seem more serious,” Bowling said. “It was very high-energy, how she said it.”

Alexandra Ceballos, a student at Inderkum, was inside the Natomas Center to get a pass for taking a test when she was told to vacate the building.

“I was here to take a test for ARC classes, and that’s when it just happened,” Ceballos said.

Ceballos noted that the smell was quite strong.

“At first when I was leaving, it was a really strong smell,” Ceballos said. “And then it faded a little bit on the other end (going toward the public library, away from the pipe), but it was still really strong.”

The evacuation lasted only around 10 minutes, according to Kobayashi and other students.

Bowling said she was concerned that the evacuation didn’t seem very well organized.

“There was no order,” Bowling said. “If it was a more serious gas leak, or a shooting, there was no direct order.”

Bowling said that even with the urgent message from staff to exit the building, there was no specific instruction or location that was stated as the place to evacuate to.

“Maybe when they came into the classrooms, they should’ve given specific instruction,” Bowling said. “So it was like, do I need to go to my car? The parking lot? There was none of that.”

Kobayashi said he was made aware of the incident by Inderkum principal Dan Motherspaw.

“We have a communication strategy because we’re a shared property, so we make sure to keep contact with each other,” Kobayashi said.

Kobayashi said he instructed staff immediately after hearing of the broken pipe to go door-to-door throughout the building to evacuate it.

“In about 10 minutes, the Sac Fire Department said the gas pipe was shut off and that it was safe to come back into the building,” Kobayashi said.

Carlos Gandara, a student, said he entered the lot just to get a parking pass before getting back in his car to get food nearby, but saw large groups of people outside the building.

“It was just casual, yeah,” Gandara said. “It didn’t seem like anything big was going on.”

Gandara did say, however, that the sight of a gathering of people outside the building was strange.

“Nothing really crossed my mind, but it did seem kind of weird that there was a big group all coming out at the same time,” Gandara said.

Kobayashi said that due to the nature of the evacuation being the result of a gas leak, instruction was given to wait further away from the building, as opposed to directly outside the doors.

By the time he returned, Gandara said groups of people were still outside and he was looking for his classmates.

“No one was in a good order or anything, so I just had to find my class (when I got back),” said Gandara.