THREE FORKS – Shortly after 5:30 a.m. Oct. 26, during Cheyenne Crane’s normal paper route, she and her mother smelled gas near a trailer home that had burned down two mornings earlier.
Like the fire, Crane, 19, called in the smell.
The gas never blew and the fire didn’t spread, but “theoretically,” Crane saved the town, Three Forks Assistant Fire Chief Wendell Ewan said.
“It would have been a boom if someone had gone in there and turned on the light,” Ewan said.
A couple hours after the initial call, Ewan smelled the strong gas odor while stopped at a stop sign on Main and Date streets next to the Masonic Lodge, giving firemen a better idea of where to look.
In total, it took about three hours for the fire department to pinpoint the source of the gas at the lodge directly across the street from the scorched trailer.
When firefighters found the leak, the two-story building with boarded windows was so full of gas that the firemen could not enter immediately.
The leak was blamed on a furnace malfunction. Though most of the gas went out of the roof, phantom smells from the added odor lingered in the air around the building.
Crane, who was delivering 230 copies of the Chronicle at the time, said she could smell gas two blocks from the lodge.
With the size of the building, and the amount of gas, Ewan speculated a blast could have been devastating, scattering debris all over the area on the edge of the town’s business district.
That didn’t happen, and Ewan personally contacted Crane to say “thank you.”
Crane graduated from Three Forks High School this spring and will join the Air Force in January, moving to San Antonio, Texas, for 17 weeks for basic training and technical school.
Though in theory she saved the town, Crane is nonchalant about the incident.
“Honestly, I’m just doing what any other citizen would do,” she said.
Rachel Hergett may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2603.