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College students evacuate after reported gas leak

People head back into Central Lakes College Wednesday when the all-clear went out after a possible gas leak was called in to the fire department. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch

A report of a gas leak at Central Lakes College Wednesday afternoon caused students to evacuate the building, but after an extensive search of the premises, no leak was found.

"A faculty called it in, they smelled gas," Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Dave Cox said of the 5 p.m. call from the community college at 501 W. College Drive in Brainerd.

The evacuation delayed the CLC Raiders women's volleyball game against Northland Community and Technical College by more than a half-hour.

"Our crew got there—did get a slight reading on our gas meter, the gas company was called—and then the gas company did not find anything, and our (gas) meters came up clear, so really it was unfounded," Cox said.

The Brainerd and Staples locations of the comprehensive community and technical college serve about 6,000 students annually.

"We were alerted to a gas smell—possible gas smell—coming from the second floor of the Central Lakes College, and immediately security staff responded," said Joy Larson, CLC emergency management and security coordinator. "We detected the smell and immediately alerted 911, fire department to respond to the scene."

Various Wilson was helping with concession sales at the collegiate volleyball game and had just made one batch of popcorn before he was ordered to evacuate.

"We stood outside for about an hour and half ... but everything is all fine," Wilson said at the scene. "Nobody got hurt."

"With a building that big and with no definite source at the time, we have to wait for the gas company to arrive," Cox said of the firefighters who were on scene for more than an hour. "Basically, we were just making sure that the building was safe and clear."

Central Lakes College's roots in Brainerd date back to 1938, and it is one of 31 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

"Whatever it was it cleared itself," Cox said. "Our crews did not find anything, and the gas company did not find anything, and it was all clear after that. It's just hard to say what could have caused it."

Cox said there was no damage to property or injuries due to the scare brought on by the scent of rotten eggs, which is indicative of a gas leak.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," Cox said of the call. "If you even think that you smell it, call it in and not from the building. Clear the building, get out of the building, call us from a safe location, and we'll go from there."