Gas line leak outside Monroe County jail shut off before evacuation plan activated

On Wednesday, outside Monroe County’s jail, a gas line that was busted around 3:42 p.m. had by 7:12 p.m. been shut off. That’s according to a Monroe County sheriff’s office news release.

At least three Bloomington fire department trucks were on the scene at the jail late Wednesday afternoon as part of the emergency response to the leaking gas line outside the jail.

Fire trucks were staged in and around the north-south alley that cuts through the block at 7th Street and College Avenue where the jail is located.

The whooshing sound of leaking gas was audible from the end of the alley. The odor of natural gas was occasionally discernible, but not persistent.

According to a Monroe County sheriff’s office news release, the gas line was broken after an ASI Facilities Services worker removed a broken toilet from the jail. The toilet was set down outside in a way that struck the inlet valve for a gas line into the jail, according to the sheriff’s news release.

On the scene around 6 p.m., jail commander Kyle Gibbons told The B Square that as soon as the line was ruptured, all the gas appliances inside the jail were shut off, including the dryers in the laundry and the stoves and ovens in the kitchen.

That meant the evening meal at the jail was pizza ordered in from different local establishments.

Gibbons also said that the jail itself was locked down and that firefighters were continually monitoring gas concentrations inside the jail as well as in surrounding buildings, to ensure they were below an explosive level.

County employees who had parked in the parking structure on the west side of the alley were not allowed to leave. They were reportedly offered Uber rides to get home.

According to the sheriff’s news release, EMS staff from IU Health Bloomington Hospital and Bloomington fire department were checking blood pressure and CO2 readings for anyone who felt affected by the gas leak.

Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté made preparations to activate the short-term jail evacuation plan, according to the news release. That meant all 38 deputies, 13 reserves, and 75 correctional staff were put on standby.

But shortly after 6 p.m. Bloomington fire personnel indicated gas levels were decreasing and that it was safe to have inmates and corrections staff on site, according to the news release. That meant the evacuation plan was not activated.

By 7:12 p.m the gas line leak was shut off by Centerpoint Energy, according to the sheriff’s news release.

The sheriff’s news release thanked the Bloomington fire department (BFD) for its rapid response.

Roger Kerr, who was the fire department’s on-duty battalion chief for the incident, responded to an emailed question from The B Square, confirming that BFD had worked closely with the sheriff and his staff to decide that inmates could shelter in place. Kerr confirmed that BFD was monitoring gas levels inside the jail during the incident.