Hollis homes evacuated over propane leak

HOLLIS – A propane leak forced the evacuation of a residential neighborhood Thursday morning.

Hollis Fire Chief Rick Towne said a subcontractor driving a truck for Christopher Cahill Construction ran over an in-ground propane tank, near a driveway at 61 Milton Place.

“It broke the top off the tank, and the truck was on top of the tank,” Towne said Thursday afternoon, after the emergency had been resolved.

About 25 firefighters had to use airbags and a winch to remove the truck, allowing Energy North to plug the roughly 500-gallon tank. The truck was removed from the tank around 11:30 a.m.

Fire and police departments received assistance from fire departments in Brookline, Amherst, Nashua and Pepperell, Mass.

“Because of the leak, water was applied to disperse the gas,” Towne said, adding that the homes on Milton Place and others on Wright Road were evacuated as a precaution.

Propane is heavier than air and can enter a home and settle into the basement, Towne said.

If propane comes into contact with a flame or static electricity, it can result in an explosion or fire.

Towne said the fire department received the call at 9:01 a.m., and cleared the scene by 12:44 p.m.

“The tank was next to the driveway and easy to hit,” Towne observed.

“Usually, when a tank is close, you need a barrier.”

The chief recommended placing a tank top up to 15 feet from a driveway. He also suggested marking the area with a sign that says “propane.”

Such situations are particularly dangerous in winter when snowplows, operating under low visibility, risk hitting unmarked tank tops, Towne said.