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Gas leak at Central High School prompts evacuation

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Falling bricks reportedly damaged a natural gas line at Valley Stream Central High School on Monday afternoon, forcing employees and workers at the school to evacuate the building for roughly an hour and a half.

“I heard a loud hissing sound and I could smell a very strong, gassy odor that seemed to be coming from inside the school,” said Mike Pizzurro, an electrician at the school. “I saw another man who told me to get away from the building, and I’m glad I got away when I did because now I can go home to my family.”

Fire officials said they had received a call about a gas leak at the school at around 3:30 p.m., and after an investigation, found that due to construction, bricks had fallen from the roof onto a high-pressure gas regulator at the rear of the building, breaking it off and causing gas to leak into the structure and surrounding air.

After being notified of the leak, Nassau County police officers, National Grid employees and Valley Stream firefighters as well as Nassau County Fire Marshal officials rushed to the school. By around 4:30 p.m., caution tape was surrounding the building, and the two entrances to Hendrickson Park were blocked off to keep bystanders from getting too close.

After discovering the source of the leak, firefighters sprayed the area around the broken regulator with water from their hoses to dissipate the gas, while other first responders worked to shut off the school’s gas supply from the street.

Valley Stream Fire Chief Jason Croak reported that concrete from previous construction had blocked the gas valve leading to the school, forcing members of the department and National Grid employees to break through the sidewalk with a jackhammer to shut off the supply.

“It was a little scary there for awhile,” said Mayor Ed Fare, who is also a Valley Stream firefighter.

After successfully shutting off the gas, firefighters reportedly performed a thorough walkthrough of the building before declaring that there was no longer a threat of a gas explosion at around 4:45 p.m. The school will have to go without gas until the regulator is repaired, Croak reported.

“Whenever gas leaks like this happen, it’s important that the people involved call the police,” a Nassau County police officer on the scene said. “They should then get as far away from the gas leak as possible.”

There were no reported injuries.

“In situations such as these," Croak advised, "people should evacuate the area, keep windows closed, keep safe distance and do as firefighters say.”