Evacuees in Grand Junction to get 5 minute visits at home with firefighter and Xcel Energy employee

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Families evacuated Tuesday after a gas leak and explosion in a Grand Junction neighborhood will be allowed to go home for just five minutes, but they have to go with an Xcel employee and a firefighter.

Xcel and fire crews were first called to a gas leak in the area of 7th St. and Orchard Ave. Tuesday around 12:50 p.m.

Officials said firefighters spotted a fire and called for more units. As the extra units were responding, the home exploded due to gas inside.

Three people inside the home were seriously injured.

The fire spread to a second home and emergency personnel began evacuating a two-block radius along with
Tope Elementary School and Grand Junction High School.

By Tuesday evening, Xcel said it had found the gas leak seven feet underground. Officials said the leak was in a transmission line that fed Colorado Mesa University, not the homes in the area. But because the gas was leaking into sewer lines, the area remains evacuated.

Residents are being asked to go to Seventh Day Adventist Church to schedule a visit home to get any necessary items from inside their home at that time.

Xcel Energy said it is bringing in specialized equipment Thursday afternoon to help purge the gas that is under the surface.

Officials said gas readings in the area have improved, but are not yet at a safe level. Rain Thursday morning did not help the ventilation efforts, as the wet soil makes it more difficult for the gas to dissipate, Xcel said.