An unidentified Columbia Gas of Ohio employee was being treated today at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center for burns to his face after natural gas from an underground pipeline caught fire and flared up at him about 11:45 a.m.
The accident occurred in the 800 block of Utah Street, an East Toledo residential neighborhood.
Columbia Gas has no reason to believe the worker veered from normal safety procedures the utility has established for when repairs are made to underground pipelines.
"It's very rare, but it happens sometimes," Chris Kozak, Columbia Gas spokesman, said, noting that pipeline repairs are a risky business under the best of circumstances.
A couple of nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution, but residents were allowed back inside once Toledo firefighters and Columbia Gas officials had the scene secured.
The employee is part of a crew that was making repairs to an old, 4-inch-wide pipeline that had developed a small leak. He was in a hole where the pipeline is located, about four feet deep, Mr. Kozak said.
The utility spokesman described the injury as "serious, but not life threatening." Two police officers said the man was able to walk to the ambulance on his own power, holding his face.
Mr. Kozak said he was not sure if Columbia Gas would be releasing the man's name.
The event was described by Mr. Kozak as a flare-up, not an explosion. Officials aren't sure what sparked it, he said.
More may be known once fire water is pumped out of the hole, Mr. Kozak said.
Officials have described the injuries as second-degree burns