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A natural gas leak reported in McKinleyville on Tuesday morning appeared to have been caused after someone “tampered” with a gas line, according to the sheriff’s office and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

“It appears the line has been tampered with by a third-party,” said Deanna Contreras, a PG&E spokesperson on Tuesday afternoon. “PG&E investigators are on the scene looking into the details in the event charges are filed.”

Samantha Karges, a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, said the agency was coordinating with PG&E on the investigation.

“PG&E has notified our agency that it appears the natural gas line had been tampered with,” she said in an email. “We are investigating accordingly, but I do not have information regarding charges being filed at this point as we are still in the preliminary stages of the investigation.”

Contreras said PG&E would be working in the area for a few hours to make sure the appropriate repairs were made.

She said the line that was tampered with was underground.

“The area where the line was tampered with is about 8–12 (inches) deep and it was near the riser (that goes to the meter),” she said.

The sheriff’s office reported they received a 911 call about the potential gas leak around 8:30 a.m. and were told that there was possibly a barricaded subject at the residence in the 1400 block of Railroad Drive in McKinleyville. The call was reportedly made by a Realtor who was checking on the property and noticed the strong odor of natural gas. The Realtor said a male tenant might be barricaded inside.

While the sheriff’s office, the Arcata Fire District and PG&E were investigating, five residents on nearby properties were evacuated and others were asked to shelter in place, the sheriff’s office stated in a news release. Deputies who searched the property were unable to locate the tenant on the property, the release stated.

The sheriff’s office also stated that McKinleyville Middle School “voluntarily initiated a lockdown.” When contacted later, a woman in the office stated there was no such lockdown, simply an increased awareness of the incident. The school’s principal was unavailable for comment and the superintendent of the district did not respond to a request for a clarification of what occurred.

The sheriff’s office reiterated residents should call 911 when a natural gas leak is suspected.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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