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LAKEWAY, Texas — Ryan VanHellen, a technician with Critter Control of Austin Texas, was performing a routine home inspection when he discovered something that could not be seen, yet was potentially more deadly than most wild animals he normally faces — an insidious gas leak in the customer’s home.
The customer, Lori Thomas, had been disturbed by a strong odor in the house and believed a dead wildlife animal, such as a raccoon or squirrel in a wall void, was the culprit. VanHellen, a 12-year veteran with Critter Control, was called out.
“When the owner opened the door to the laundry room it hit me like a 'ton a bricks.' I said, ‘Yep, you probably have a dead squirrel in here,’” said VanHellen, who proceeded to try and pinpoint where the animal was located in the wall before he opened it up. To his surprise, the smell dissipated as he got closer to the wall.
“I started thinking it might have been a gas leak, so I went to the kitchen and checked out the stove,” he recalled. “The burner was on. Apparently, the week before the cleaning lady had been out and accidentally hit the burner on without lighting it.”
VanHellen turned off the burner opened the windows to ventilate the house and recommended to the owners they have the gas company stop out, just to make certain there weren’t any leaks. One of the reasons the gas leak was not recognized sooner — by both the owners and VanHellen — was because the gas company had recently changed the odor of the propane.
The customer, Lori Thomas, called and thanked VanHellen’s office manager, and wife, Summer, saying, “I don’t know if he told you the story, but your husband saved our lives. We called your company to help us with an uninvited visitor after finding you on YP.com. When Ryan arrived he discovered a gas leak. God is really watching over all us because I called the right people to do the right job. And I am going to put ratings and reviews on your website because you all are amazing. One good term always deserves another, and I’m happy to say that we are alive thanks to you all.”
VanHellen was appreciative of the customer's heartfelt message, and he noted that this experience illustrates how important it is to not only thoroughly inspect, but to also critically think when doing wildlife work. He said this was not the first time he discovered a gas leak while attempting to locate and remove an animal carcass. A couple years ago he had opened up a fireplace wall in search of an animal carcass and the culprit turned out to be a breech in the fireplace’s gas line.
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