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UPDATE: Bloomfield/Church Open Again Following Gas Line Break That Forced Evacuations and Closures

Huge section of Bloomfield, as well as of Church, were closed for several hours on Monday

 

Township officials announced at about 3 p.m. Monday that Bloomfield Avenue and Church Street are open to traffic again following a gas line break that resulted in a leak earlier in the day.

That leak had forced the evacuation of businesses and residents around South Park Street and Bloomfield Avenue, as well as the closing of Bloomfield Avenue between Valley Road and South Fullerton Avenue for several hours.

Church Street also was closed to traffic although at least a few businesses—such as , Red Mango, and —remained opened throughout the day.

"You can only get here if you walk," said an employee at Accents With Flowers at 41 Church Street.

Traffic was initially tied up during the busy 9 a.m. hour but remained heavy throughout Monday, with firetrucks, ambulances, and PSE&G vehicles swarming near the area where the redevelopment of South Park Street has been taking place.

The good news was that no injuries have been reported but about 100 people had to be evacuated from the area until about 3 p.m.

Montclair Police Lt. Angel L. Roman Jr. released a statement early Monday saying that, due to a gas leak in the area of South Park Street, "we have shut down Bloomfield Avenue between Valley Road and South Fullerton Avenue. This will be for approximately four hours."

The Township of Montclair released another statement just after 10 a.m., reiterating that Bloomfield would be closed for four hours.

By 2 p.m., though, workers still hadn't capped off a leaking six-inch gas line and Bloomfield and Church remained closed.

But by 3 p.m. the area was deemed safe for pedestrians and vehicles.

Township Manager Marc Dashield had said that the contractor's equipment at the site of the South Park Street project hit the gas line at about 8 a.m. on Monday.

He said that PSE&G has been notified and is on the scene and that the Montclair Fire Department is handling the situation.

A firefighter at the scene said that mutual aid from nearby towns had been brought in to help local emergency workers due to the vastness of the area impacted by the incident.

"Gas is pouring out. There is no shut off on the main," he said Monday morning. "PSE&G is going to have to dig and pinch it off to stop the gas. The block had to be evacuated."

Yellow "Do Not Cross" tapes had been strewn across Bloomfield Avenue, forcing pedestrians and drivers to seek alternate routes for getting to their destinations.

Many people had waited along Bloomfield Avenue outside the evacuation zone on Monday morning, gawking at the emergency vehicles gathering at the site.

"I guess I can't get on to work ... guess all I can do is stay here ... I don't know how long it takes to clear up this kind of thing," said John Ziorelli.

Although businesses close to Bloomfield's intersection with South Park Street and along South Park Street had to be evacuated, other businesses along Bloomfield Avenue and Church Street remained open on Monday including Fleet Feet at 603 Bloomfield and The Office Bar & Grill at 619 Bloomfield.

"Yes, the problems are further down, around South Park Street ... we're all still open at our end [closer to Valley Road]," said an employee at The Office.

An employee at Starbucks said the business was allowed to stay open—although "it's nearly impossible to get here."

Meanwhile, a few Patch readers reported seeing helicopters hovering above Montclair High School but they were gone by early afternoon.

The much-anticipated South Park Street redesign project just started a few weeks ago and is expected to be completed by July 2012.

It's not yet known how this gas line break might impact the project.

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