A bad valve was the cause of a gas leak that led to the evacuation of the Ripon Middle School/Ripon High School building early this afternoon (Wednesday).

Firefighters were called to the Ripon Middle School end of the building at about 1:30 p.m. on the report of an odor of gas.

Upon arriving, about a dozen staff in the building already were in the process of evacuating; equipment then confirmed high levels of gas in the school.

After taking readings from a few different locations, they found the source of the leak in the kitchen.

“We tracked it down to a leak from the warmers in the kitchen; there was a bad valve on the warmers in the kitchen,” Ripon Area Fire District Chief Tim Saul said.

“We shut the gas off to those warmers; we didn’t have to shut the gas off for the entire school.”

Firefighters then ventilated the building before rechecking for gas.

“At that point we had ‘zero’ readings,” Saul said, noting the department then was able to allow staff to return.

The whole process took about a half hour.

He added that he was pleased with how school staff responded to the leak.

“Fortunately they called us and they were evacuating themselves out of the building before we got there,” he said, noting it’s vital that people call for help if they smell gas. “If you smell gas, don’t wait. Call the fire department early.”

Ian Stepleton is the editor of the Ripon Commonwealth Press, and been with the paper since September 2000. Starting with fall 2016, he also is an adjunct professor of journalism at Ripon College, and advisor to the college's newspaper, the College Days.

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