UPDATE 2:00 P.M. Tuesday, January 14

Crews from Northwestern Energy quickly repaired a two-inch gas line that had been ruptured by a crew doing excavation work in a field just off the Eastside Highway in Florence.

Company spokesman Butch Larcombe said that the construction company had taken all the necessary steps to determine if there were any gas lines buried in the area, but the line they encountered was not on any of the company's documents, so the crew was not liable for the repairs.

Larcombe said the adjoining restaurant, Cafe Firenze, was evacuated for only about 45 minutes, while he said the Eastside Highway was reopened after only about an hour. No one was injured in the mishap.


Just before 11 a.m. on Tuesday, January 14, a construction crew accidentally punctured a natural gas line that runs along the Eastside Highway in Florence, leading to the evacuation of a local restaurant, and the closure of the highway.

Assistant Fire Chief with the Florence Fire Department, Tom Martin, said the crew was working on the power lines along the highway in conjunction with road construction when the accident occurred.

"What we heard was that an inch and a half gas line was punctured, and the Eastside Highway here in Florence is completely blocked off because it runs right along the highway," Martin said. "Northwestern Energy just got on scene right now, and they're working with our team to make a plan to get the gas shut off and the highway reopened."

Martin said the Café Firenze was the only structure to be evacuated, because it was right alongside where the break occurred.

"We've been working with law enforcement to get the highway blocked off and keep the people away from the area until Northwestern Energy could get there."

Martin said he was not aware of any injuries related to the incident.

Assistant Fire Chief with the Florence Fire Department, Tom Martin