OAKFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities have lifted an evacuation notice for a northeastern Kent County neighborhood after gas leaks at three homes that are being blamed on overnight storms.

Firefighters said they were called to 14 Mile Road near Lappley Avenue in Oakfield Township, west of Greenville, shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday on a report of a house fire. Oakfield Township Fire Chief Samuel Peterson said two homes were involved.

While the two homes sustained a fair amount of damage, Peterson said no one was hurt.

One of the houses on 14 Mile Road in Oakfield Township damaged by fire that may have been connected to a gas leak. (June 16, 2022)
One of the houses on 14 Mile Road in Oakfield Township damaged by fire that may have been connected to a gas leak. (June 16, 2022)

As crews put out the fire and started looking for what caused it, they realized there may be natural gas leaks, Peterson said.

Ultimately, leaks were discovered at three homes, including the two damaged in the fire.

About 20 homes and four businesses nearby were evacuated around 10:30 a.m. as a result out of an “abundance of caution,” Peterson said. Shortly after 1 p.m., after “extensive testing” from the gas company, firefighters decided it was safe for everyone to return.

Crews are still investigating the link between the gas leaks, the fire and last night’s storm.

“We’re not sure what came before what,” Peterson said.

DTE Energy Director of Gas Operations Scotty Kehoe said an “external source” sent an electrical current through its natural gas facilities, which is what caused the leaks. DTE is still looking into exactly what caused that — whether it was a lightning strike or a power line coming down. Either way, DTE believes the problem was caused by the storms that rolled through the area overnight.

Authorities block off 14 Mile Road in Oakfield Township after multiple underground natural gas leaks Thursday, June 16, 2022.

“We don’t know the specific source, but we do see evidence that it was some activity last night. We did not have any leaks present prior to the storm weather last night and we do have evidence that it was some electrical current that ended up energizing our facilities,” Kehoe said.

He said it was “very uncommon” for natural gas lines to get energized, like in this case.

Kehoe said DTE would be making sure there were no other leaks in the area with crews in cars and on foot Thursday, but teams were fairly certain the problem was limited to the three homes.

Earlier Thursday, the Consumers Energy outage map showed more than 600 customers in Oakfield Township were without power. Just before 11 a.m. Thursday, most customers had services restored.

14 Mile/M-57 was closed between Lappley and Wabasis Avenue NE until about 3 p.m.