Gas leak near El Cajon mall forces businesses to evacuate

EL CAJON, Calif. -- A gas leak in El Cajon near Parkway Plaza forced half a dozen businesses to evacuate Friday afternoon.

The leak was reported around noon to Heartland Fire & Rescue in El Cajon. Sonny Saghera, a spokesman for Heartland Fire & Rescue, said the leak started when a construction crew hit a two-inch gas transmission pipe on N. Marshall Avenue and Petree Street.

Firefighters and police officers evacuated a restaurant and several other businesses on nearby Jackman Street and shut down traffic lanes near the site of the leak.

“The strip mall here is exactly downwind from the direction of where the gas was travelling," Battalion Chief Brian Hayward told FOX 5.  "We were concerned with any type of explosion.”

The general manager of Black Bear Diner, Cody Bowen, said officers told them to shut off their stoves as a precaution and gave them five minutes to evacuate nearly 170 patrons during the busy lunch hour rush. Some did not have time to pay for their meals, Bowen said.

"It’s graduation season so we are very, very busy. So we will see a little dip in our sales for Friday night obviously," Bowen told FOX 5.

Other patrons were turned away at the door.

“I’m really disappointed," one patron told FOX 5. "We were really looking forward to having dinner with our neighborhood friends and it’s not going to work."

There were no reports of anyone suffering any ill effects from the airborne fumes, authorities said.

Temporary road and trolley closures near Fletcher Parkway, North Marshall Avenue and Petree Street went into effect while the leak was ongoing.

Authorities said the leak was under control at 3:51 p.m. It took crews several more hours to finish repairs.

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System confirmed bus and trolley systems had returned to regular service.

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