Copper thieves who targeted an empty South Surrey house overnight Thursday were lucky they didn’t blow themselves sky-high, after cutting through a gas line.
Natural gas was left free-flowing in the house, undetected for several hours until the next afternoon, resulting in residents of about eight homes in the 2500-block of 168 Street being evacuated.
“It was lucky, especially the thieves were lucky,” Surrey fire Capt. Gerry Scott said at the scene.
“With the proper mixture, the whole house would’ve gone.”
Fire crews were alerted to the problem around 2 p.m., after an area resident reported the pervasive odour and a Fortis BC employee determined the risk was high.
“The employee got close to the house and decided it was too dangerous,” Scott said.
Neighbours were evacuated while efforts to contain and avert the danger were undertaken: the home’s gas supply was cut and BC Hydro cut electricity to the area. Fire crews then vented the home, successfully bringing the gas reading “below explosive levels.”
Traffic along 168 Street north of 24 Avenue was also temporarily redirected.
Scott said damage to the home indicates the thief or thieves gained access by kicking in a fence and the front door.
One man who came to check on the situation for a friend said if there had been any little spark, the outcome would’ve have been disastrous.
“All it needed was one little ignition and it could have been a bomb,” he said.
The situation was under control within an hour, and by 3:40 p.m., 168 Street had been reopened to traffic and residents were allowed to return.