Emergency vehicles and Kansas Gas Service vehicles caused limited access to Walmart after a paving crew drilled a hole in the new pavement for a sign and hit a gas line causing a leak.

Pratt firefighters were already at Walmart around 11 a.m. on June 29 when a paving crew hit a gas line in the parking lot. The paving crew was drilling a hole in the new asphalt parking lot for a pole when the auger hit an underground gas line. Work was halted and the fire department put on standby in case of fire.

Pratt firemen happened to be at Walmart picking up water and sports drinks when a member of the paving crew came up to a firefighter and said they had just hit a gas line, said Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer.

The leak was in the southeast corner of the parking lot at the end of a parking row just south and west of Taco Bell. Vehicles in the parking lot and parked next to the leak had to stay in place until the gas was shut off.

A Kansas Gas Service employee dug down to the gas line on the north side of the parking lot, in the right-of-way between the parking lot and East U.S. 54, to gain access to the gas line. It was a poly line and Kansas Gas used a special tool to squeeze off the gas line to shut off the flow, Kramer said.

The gas line had been marked on the parking lot before the asphalt was ground up and a new layer placed on the surface.The gas line continuation marks were not replaced on the new pavement. But some of the original continuation marks for the gas line were still visible about 30 feet away and could easily have been seen, Kramer said.

Access to the Walmart parking lot was strictly limited to the north entrance on Fincham Street and only one lane. The south entrance off Fincham was blocked with fire equipment.

Firefighters charged lines in case of a fire and were on standby. There was no fire and the fire hoses were not used.

The wind was blowing the gas away from the Walmart building and the store remained open during the event as did nearby Taco Bell. Kansas Gas Service considered whether to evacuate Walmart and Taco Bell. It was a small leak with dirt on top and there was enough wind to dissipate the gas quickly so the decision was made to not evacuate the buildings, Kramer said.

“With the wind, there wasn’t much hazard,” Kramer said.

The firefighters did have to deal with a couple of people who were not paying attention. One man was walking about 15 feet from the hole with the gas leak and put a cigarette in his mouth. A firefighter yelled at the man to not light the cigarette because of the leak.

A driver was not paying attention and drove over one of the fire department safety cones that became lodged underneath his pickup. The firefighters were able to get the man stopped and retrieved the cone.

While firefighters didn’t have a fire to deal with they were kept busy directing traffic.

Firefighters were on scene for a couple of hours and were finally cleared to leave around 1:30 p.m. There were no injuries and other than the gas line, nothing else was damaged.

The new pavement is part of a multi million dollar remodel project ongoing both inside and outside the Walmart store.