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Newport: Natural gas leak at City Hall

A puff of natural gas permeated city hall Thursday morning.  Cleared quickly.

A puff of natural gas permeated city hall Thursday morning. Cleared quickly.

Police and fire officials waiting for the building to be officially cleared of natural gas.

Police and fire officials waiting for the building to be officially cleared of natural gas.

City Hall's HVAC system on the roof.  Five separate units.

City Hall’s HVAC system on the roof. Five separate units.

Newport City Hall employees were evacuated this morning to the senior center after a report of a strong odor of natural gas permeating the building.

Upon arrival, fire department crews determined that the smell had been sucked up and sent out by the building’s heating and ventilation system. Fire officials say that it was probably a puff of natural gas that was associated with a restart of the building’s heating system which has been off since the recent fire and explosion at the power company substation off 7th.

Assistant Fire Chief Rob Murphy said the sudden power surges associated with that event may have caused some programming issues with the heating system’s computer controls. So when cooler temperatures returned over the last 24 hours and the heat kicked back on, there was a “burp” of natural gas released that was caught up in the ventilation system and distributed throughout the building. It was not a sustained release. Murphy said with our recent warm (for the coast) weather the building stayed warm pretty much on its own without the heater But with cooler temperatures returning, the heating system kicked back on – complete with a burp. Murphy says the heating system appears to be running fine now.

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