• Gas line ignites near Cape Girardeau casino; no one hurt



    No one was injured Wednesday afternoon when a ruptured gas line caused a backhoe to catch fire about a block south of Isle Casino Cape Girardeau.

    Firefighters were called at 1:34 p.m. to investigate an odor in the 600 block of North Main Street after a Cotner Electric backhoe struck the four-inch line.

    "While we were standing here baby-sitting it, it lit off," said Fred Vincel, battalion chief for the Cape Girardeau Fire Department.

    The operator was out of the backhoe by the time it started burning about 10 minutes after firefighters arrived, Vincel said.

    Firefighters were not sure what caused the gas to ignite, but Vincel said a strobe light in the cab of the backhoe was on, indicating the equipment still had power.

    Ameren Missouri, which owns the gas line, already had been notified of the leak, but workers had not yet arrived to shut off the gas when it ignited, Vincel said.

    Bright yellow-orange flames shot into the air, damaging the backhoe's cab and blowing an orange caution light off the top, but firefighters kept the fire from spreading while they waited for Ameren workers to shut off the gas, Vincel said.

    "Fortunately, we didn't have any power lines above it," he said.

    Vincel said the backhoe operator told firefighters there were no markings to indicate the presence of the gas line.

    Firefighters evacuated a building at 605 N. Main St., across the street from the backhoe, as a precaution, he said.

    Isle Casino Cape Girardeau, about a block from the site of the fire, remained open, but casino management worked with firefighters and police to reroute customers away from the area near the gas leak, firefighters said.

    "Both fire and police crews were able very quickly to cordon off the area and work very closely with Isle of Capri in detouring their customers going to and coming from the casino," said Mark Hasheider, assistant fire chief.

    He said natural gas, which rises into the air and dissipates quickly, is less dangerous than propane, which settles on the ground. But firefighters took precautions to ensure people in the area were safe.

    Scanner traffic Wednesday afternoon indicated northbound Main Street was closed so Ameren could repair the line.