Williamstown Elementary gas leak

WILLIAMSTOWN – Employees working at Williamstown Elementary School Thursday evacuated the building after a natural gas leak was discovered in the basement.

Williamstown Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Mike Voshel said the amount of gas leaking likely did not pose a significant danger. Dominion Hope representatives shut off the gas until Wood County Schools personnel can make repairs, but school officials said Thursday that everything was under control and the Energy Express program scheduled to begin at the school Monday should not be affected.

Custodian Laura Curfman made the call to 911 around 11:15 a.m. Thursday after noticing an odor of natural gas downstairs that she hadn’t smelled before leaving for lunch.

“It was like turning your gas stove on and you don’t light it,” she said.

Principal Heather Mannix-Bretthauer said three custodians were working in the building, along with multiple teachers preparing for the start of Energy Express, a program designed to keep children learning over the summer.

Voshel said firefighters initially donned air packs when entering the building but found that, although there was a noticeable gas odor in the basement, they could breathe without assistance.

“That’s where the gas line and everything all leads in,” he said.

Voshel said school district employees who assessed the situation discovered leaks in some of the fittings. It was not immediately clear whether the leaks were fixed Thursday, because most district employees were off for West Virginia Day. However, Voshel said the gas would not have been turned back on until the leaks were addressed, and that shouldn’t have much impact on operations since it is summer.

Mike Fling, assistant superintendent of facilities for Wood County Schools, was out of town Thursday but said he did not believe the situation would pose a significant obstacle going forward.

“There’s no indication that there’s any continued problem,” he said.