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Oct 19, 2013 1:12 AM by Samantha Ptashkin

One big lesson to take away from school gas line fire

TUCSON- The bright orange flames and black smoke outside Apollo Middle School Friday morning are proof of the dangers that can arise when people dig underground.

"You don't know what you'll find," says Libby Howell of Southwest Gas.

Howell says every year Southwest Gas receives about 250 calls regarding underground gas lines that have been hit.

But she says there is a good method to prevent a dangerous situation and if you dig without doing it, you're breaking the law.

It's called "Blue Staking", when utility crews mark the locations of gas lines or other utilities underground. Once the line is drawn, you can't dig any closer than two feet.

In some cases, homeowners don't know about the law, but often they think 'oh I'm just digging a tree, it's not a big job'." But Howell says everyone who is digging underground needs to blue stake.

The company of the crew digging at Apollo Middle School is Commonwealth Electric. News 4 Tucson has learned it did not blue stake the area before crews started digging around. News 4 Tucson tried to reach a spokesperson, but never heard back.

The Arizona Corporation Commission, which is in charge of blue staking can fine the company up to $5,000 for each utility that was not blue staked.

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