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Gainesville Fire Rescue Coordinates Multi-Agency Response to Sinkhole Threat

10/23/2020

City of Gainesville teams from Gainesville Fire Rescue, Public Works, Gainesville Regional Utilities and Gainesville Police Department responded last week to the formation of a sinkhole in northwest Gainesville. Crews worked to address several issues caused by the ground collapse as GPD rerouted traffic and GFR crews evacuated four homes in the immediate vicinity. No one was injured.

“Given the uncertainty of the situation, we first needed to get area neighbors to safety,” said GFR Chief Joseph Hillhouse who served as an incident commander at the scene. “First responders went door-to-door Thursday and the Alachua County Combined Communications Center used its 911 callback system to alert neighbors of the incident by phone,” he said.

The sinkhole, measuring 40 feet across and 30 feet deep on Oct. 22, formed in the backyard of a private home and engulfed one tree which fell on a utility line and broke a nearby utility pole. GRU crews immediately deactivated the power to the line, and worked to cap off and reroute a gas line that was also impacted by the sinkhole.

“Our gas and electric crews worked quickly and safely to restore utility services to some 10 natural gas and 100 electric customers by late Thursday,” said Ed Bielarski, GRU General Manager. “We will continue to monitor the situation and are prepared to provide support 24/7," he said.

By Friday morning, the sinkhole had stretched an additional 15 feet wide and a GFR crew returned to the site to place temporary orange fencing around the hazard to deter individuals from getting too close.

Sinkholes of this nature are rare within the city limits where a protective layer of clay sits between the ground surface and the Floridan Aquifer. The risk of sinkhole formation is higher in the area west of Interstate 75 where the clay layer is not as abundant. Geological engineers from the Alachua County Department of Environmental Protection assisted in the multi-agency effort to assess the sinkhole, and Alachua County Fire Rescue used its drone to obtain images from directly above the sinkhole. The teams also directed homeowners to the Florida Geological Survey Sinkhole hotline for additional resources and next steps.