Officials Probe for Solutions in Wake of Fairfax Gas Blast

Times Staff Writer

While two-member teams roamed the Fairfax shopping area checking for escaping methane, Los Angeles fire officials met Thursday to discuss ways to mitigate the immediate hazard posed by the gas and consider steps to avoid future trouble.

The city's fire marshal, Deputy Fire Chief Craig Drummond, said after meeting with technical experts that the Fire Department had approved plans to drill six or eight small-diameter test wells to determine whether larger wells are needed to vent the gas under the region.

"We're still getting some gas percolating out of the area," Drummond said. "We hope to abate the hazard first. When we decide there's no longer an emergency, we're going to have to advise people what needs to be done."

He said the Fire Department may suggest that those living and working in structures over old oil fields install gas detectors or employ monitoring services.

County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn called Thursday for the installation of gas detectors in stores, restaurants, hotels and apartment buildings in areas where gas leaks occur.

"We cannot eliminate the leakage of dangerous gases in certain areas of Los Angeles County, since this area has a history of oil exploration," Hahn told a news conference. "And wherever there are oil wells, there are certain to be gases escaping into the air. However, we can make sure that people are warned whenever gas leaks occur."

To implement his plan, Hahn succeeded in winning Board of Supervisors' approval earlier this week to direct the county counsel to draw up an ordinance requiring that gas alarms be installed in public buildings.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief John Englund explained that gas monitors can be linked to smoke and sprinkler alarm systems already in use. Reporters were handed copies of a catalogue page that listed a gas alarm costing $393, plus $70 for an alarm horn.

"If I lived in that area, I would install one so fast it would make your head spin," Los Angeles Deputy Fire Chief Darrel Thompson told a meeting of the city Fire Commission on Thursday.

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