Portland firm says subcontractor hit gas line in NW Portland gas blast

Loy Clark pipeline company hit NW gas line

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Bremik Construction of Portland announced on its Facebook page Thursday morning that they were the contractor on a construction project where a gas explosion destroyed a historic Northwest Portland building.

The company said a subcontractor on the job hit a gas pipeline during excavation.

KGW has confirmed that the subcontractor is Loy Clark Pipeline of Tualatin. "Loy Clark Pipeline Company’s safety record has been exemplary for several decades, earning the company four awards," says its website page on safety.

"We understand utility notifications, locates and protocols were in place and clearly marked before work proceeded. The subcontractor immediately shut down operations and followed safety protocols, contacting NW Natural and the Portland Fire Bureau who immediately responded," said Bremik Construction on its Facebook page.

A news release from Loy Clark Pipeline said the company will cooperate with investigators and partner with Northwest Natural to provide hotel rooms for those affected by the explosion.

"Our priority is assisting those who have been affected and we are working on setting up a location and a phone number for people who have losses associated with this accident," the company said in the statement.

Cleanup and investigations continue one day after two natural gas explosions destroyed a building in a popular and busy residential and commercial section of the city.

Three firefighters, three civilians and two police officers were injured in two simultaneous natural gas explosions that completely destroyed a building at Northwest 23rd Avenue and Glisan Street in Portland Wednesday morning.

Portland Fire & Rescue reported that there were no fatalities from the explosions.

On Thursday morning, Portland Fire & Rescue Bureau spokesman Lt. Rich Chatman said a contractor cut a gas line outside of the building and gas collected inside. He said investigators have not determined what specifically sparked the blast.

Lt. Peter St. John, who was credited with heroic action, underwent surgery for a broken leg. Chatman said he was in good spirits and met Wednesday with the chief. Also in good spirits were firefighters Bret Kimple and Erik Kent, who were treated and released.

Chatman said streets in the area would be closed all day Thursday at a minimum. 

Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said the two injured officers, Larry MacNabb and Chris Kulp, suffered 'concussive-type' injuries. Both were adamant that they remain on the scene and had to be ordered to go to the hospital, Simpson said. They were treated and released.

McNabb's longtime beat had been the Northwest Portland neighborhood where the blast took place. "It's his home," Simpson said. 

Loy Clark Pipeline was working on underground lines for new construction Wednesday morning. A worker digging near the telephone pole at the corner of Northwest 23rd and Glisan, directly south and across the street from the site of the explosion, hit a gas line at about 8:55 a.m.

Northwest Natural Gas said the gas line was 1-inch in diameter and steel coated. It was installed in 1985 and connected to the building that exploded.

The work crew went across the street and informed building occupants they had hit the gas line. Northwest Natural Gas and Portland Fire & Rescue were notified by 9 a.m.

VIDEO: Scenes from explosion in NW Portland


Crews responded to the report of the natural gas leak and decided to evacuate the building and other buildings in the area.

"We know there was a lot of gas in there," Chatman said.

Portland Fire Chief Mike Myers credited St. John with "single-handedly saving lives" by helping to quickly evacuate the affected building, including from two businesses, Dosha Salon and Portland Bagelworks, inside the building.

About 20 minutes later, while people were being escorted out of the area, a "significant explosion" happened from inside the building at about 9:39 a.m., according to Chatman.

A source told KGW that a Portland Fire & Rescue firefighter used his body to shield an injured firefighter during the explosion.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said firefighters did a great job getting people out of harm's way following the gas leak.

"It's a scene like none other that I've ever seen. Fortunately we believe no one was killed in this incident," Hales said. "Huge credit to the Portland Fire Bureau for getting on scene, sizing it up and getting people out of the way."

Hales said people can contact the Mayor's Office to donate money or goods to those affected by the explosion.

"There's a lot of impact on people's lives and we're going to need the community to come together to help those folks," he said.

The owner of Portland Bagelworks set up a GoFundMe page to help rebuild his business. The father of two employees also set up a GoFundMe to help the employees until the business rebuilds.

PHOTOS: Explosion in NW Portland


At its peak, about 100 firefighters were at the scene, putting out hot spots from outside the building. Structural engineers, after an inspection, said the building was not in danger of collapsing.

A spokesman from Northwest Natural Gas said Wednesday that customers in the area can expect gas outages. As of Thursday morning, 118 customers remained without gas. The gas service will not be restored until the site is cleared and released by investigators.

About 420 students at Metropolitan Learning Center at 2033 NW Glisan Street were evacuated as a precaution Wednesday morning, though police said the children were not in danger. The students were transported to Portland School District headquarters where parents were notified to come pick up their children.

Earlier reports said that children at Chapman Elementary reported feeling sick from the smoke, but the principal at Chapman said the children are doing well and still in school.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating the explosion.


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