Campbell River Fire Rescue members secure the perimeter around a natural gas leak at Compound Storage in Campbelton on Monday.

Backhoe springs gas line in Campbellton

“Call before you dig,” obviously isn’t a message that is getting through to some people

“Call before you dig,” obviously isn’t a message that is getting through to some people.

Early Monday afternoon, Campbellton businesses reported “the smell of gas or propane” to emergency services, bringing members of Campbell River Fire Rescue to the Compound Storage site at the corner of Spruce Street and Marwalk Crescent where a backhoe operator had burst through a Fortis gas line while digging.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence,” said Deputy Fire Chief Chris Vrabel on scene. “It’s really another ‘call before you dig,’ situation. We respond to these fairly regularly to secure the scene while we wait for Fortis to arrive.”

At that point, the utility takes over and the Fire Department takes on a “support role,” Vrabel said, whether that is issuing evacuation orders as necessary, redirecting traffic or digging up broken lines.

In this instance, both traffic control and digging was required of the crew, as they accessed the line alongside the Fortis workers with hand shovels.

No evacuation was ordered as no homes or businesses were in immediate danger, Vrabel said.

Michael Allison of Fortis BC confirmed that service was suspended to one property while the line was crimped off to stop the leak and said that when a situation like this occurs, the person or company responsible for the damage is also responsible for the cost of the response.

“Gas isn’t metered until it gets to a property, so we can’t recover that particular cost, but they are definitely responsible for the cost of the work done to repair the line and the time it takes to do so,” he said, which applies to both people working on commercial properties, independent contractors, “or even residents working on their own property.”

Allison said that they have seen a 52 per cent decrease in broken gas lines between 2007 and 2014, so their messaging is getting through to most people. “BC One Call,” the hotline for gas line location assessment, has received a 17 per cent increase over that time.

“We’d like to see that number get to zero,” he said, “and this is really a good reminder for people to call before they dig so they know what utilities are down there. If they don’t call, and they hit something, they’re on the hook.”

The number to call for gas line location requests is 1-800-474-6886 or *6886 on your cell phone. Visit for more information or to request an E-Ticket Location Request online. Fortis would like to remind the public to call or click a minimum of two business days before they intend to dig so they have time to properly assess the site.