LISTEN: State of Emergency Declared after Hazmat Situation in Wheatley

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A state of emergency has been declared and several homes have been evacuated after a dangerous gas was discovered in downtown Wheatley.

Chatham Kent Fire Service was called to 16 Erie Street North Wednesday just before 2:30 p.m. for a report of a gas leak.

Chief Chris Case tells The Afternoon News that dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide gas forced the evacuation.

"Hydrogen sulfide is extremely toxic and extremely flammable," he says. "In concentrations it can actually explode, so we're very concerned about the dangers of the gas."

Containing the naturally occurring gas will be a challenge, according to Case.

"Well, a natural gas leak would come from a pipe and can be shut down because if comes from the gas network," he says. "What we think is happening here is this gas is coming up through the ground, possibly deep under ground, so it's not as simple as turning the gas off."

Case says Windsor Fire and Rescue Services' Hazmat team, Chatham-Kent fire; EMS, Enbridge and the Ministry of Environment are all on scene.

"We've had firefighters on the scene almost for 24 hours now who are continuing to monitor the area to see if the gas levels are safe outside of the area and to keep people from going into the danger area," he added.

He says 16 people have been evacuated from 14 homes in the area and both power and natural gas have been shut off as a precaution.

There is no indication at this time as to when utilities will be restored to the buildings or when the fire department will lift the evacuation order.