DALLAS (CBS11) – Dueling community meetings got underway in Northwest Dallas Tuesday night. Both are intended to address neighborhood concerns following a series of fires and a fatal explosion last week blamed on natural gas.
Community organizer Carlos Quintanilla says he is rallying homeowners who live near the explosion site to demand action.
“I live on Espanola,” says Cynthia Valdez. “One block from where the little girl died.” Valdez is hosting a meeting at her home, saying she doesn’t trust Atmos Energyor city officials.
Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano and Councilman Omar Narvaez are holding a community meeting at nearby Foster Elementary.
Valdez has been staying in a hotel provided by Atmos since the explosion, but says she and others in the neighborhood question whether the area is safe– even with the planned repairs.
“The city is just going to tell us everything is ok, it’s fixed… and ya’ll can go home and I don’t believe them. I don’t trust them. It could have been any of us, and it’s still going on.”
In the days that followed the death of 12-year-old Linda Rogers, Atmos crews and heavy equipment appeared in the neighborhood like mushrooms follow rain. Seemingly overnight, repair crews were everywhere.
“I thought: better run.” Kenneth Knight lives a few blocks away from the home that exploded. But, he’s still close enough to be concerned.
“It’s just right there,” says Rogers. “Those houses are probably not any older than mine…if it can happen there, it can happen here.”
According to an emailed update from Atmos, dozens of crews are working to repair two and a half miles of natural gas mains. As of Tuesday afternoon, those repairs were about two-thirds complete. About 250 displaced residents are still staying in hotels.
So when he was asked to evacuate Monday night, Knight says he didn’t hesitate. He was complimentary of assistance he received from Atmos staffers manning a command post at a nearby grocery store and says he was content to stay in a hotel until repairs are made.
“It’s reassuring that now they’re taking it seriously, I guess,” says Knight. “It’s a little scary because there’s so much doing on…is it bigger than what we’re seeing? I don’t know.”