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Update: More than 200 evacuated for gas leak

Rainbow Rider vans were used with school buses to evacuate Grand Arbor residents during a gas leak Tuesday. (Contributed)

A couple hundred residents of Grand Arbor by Knute Nelson in Alexandria were evacuated Tuesday afternoon due to a gas leak that was discovered by a staff member who recognized the smell of gas in an underground parking garage.

CenterPoint Energy identified the source of the leak, which was initially reported at 3:32 p.m., and was able to repair it without having to disrupt electricity to the building, said Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow. He said he did not have a cause for the leak, which was in the vicinity of the patio area on the outside of the building at 4403 Pioneer Rd SE.

Evacuating that many people in that short of a span went well, Karrow said, because many area agencies worked together.

“Honestly, it was pretty amazing to see the collaboration between all of these different entities,” Karrow said. “Shows you the importance of community conversations and drills.”

In addition to CenterPoint and the fire department, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Alexandria Police Department, North Memorial Ambulance and Ellingson Plumbing, Heating, A/C and Electrical all responded.

Firefighters went through the building rounding up residents, and buses from the Alexandria School District were called to Grand Arbor to transport residents across Pioneer Road to the high school building to wait out the repairs. Several buses from Rainbow Rider were also used to take wheelchair-bound residents to and from the high school.

Karrow estimated that between 200-250 people were evacuated, either to the high school or to the south garage area. He suspected it wasn’t much more than a half-hour before the building had been ventilated, the all-clear was given, and residents were being bused back and checked in. The responding agencies left the scene within about 90 minutes.

“The Grand Arbor staff was amazing,” Karrow said. “To see the compassion and genuine concern for the residents from everybody, that’s what stood out the most to me.”

The residents at Grand Arbor range from those who require high levels of care to those who are very independent, said Katie Perry, a senior vice president with Knute Nelson, which manages Grand Arbor.

“The safety and well-being of our residents and staff is our number one priority,” said Mark Anderson, Knute Nelson president and CEO. “We are incredibly thankful for the timely response and support we received from emergency personnel, and we’re grateful the issue was able to be resolved.”