Residents of a north-side Thunder Bay neighbourhood were being allowed back into their homes Thursday afternoon after police lifted an evacuation order.

A leak in the gas line at Red River and Hill Street caused the evacuation of homes within a two block radius. Police and fire crews were warning people in other nearby neighbourhoods to stay inside with doors and windows closed.

"There's always some risk when there's a gas leak," said Thunder Bay fire chief John Hay. "The biggest concern would be a fire or an explosion. We've been able to, through our process here, minimize that risk."

The precautions were lifted after Union Gas said it had stopped the leak as of 2:30 Thursday afternoon.

Hay and Thunder Bay Police Inspector Lorne Clifford spoke to reporters at a command post set up at Red River and Winnipeg Avenue.  

Hay said there was construction in the vicinity of the leaking gas line, but it's not clear whether that was the cause.

The evacuation caused confusion for some residents who were uncertain about what was happening.

Hill Street resident Joan Foster said she went out to get groceries early Thursday morning and then found police barricades prevented her from returning home. Later, a police officer told her about the evacuation order.

"I left the door locked, I'm sure the dog is protecting it," she said of her empty house. "It's better to be safe than sorry. You don't fool around with gas leaks."

Thunder Bay Police assisted Thunder Bay Fire and Rescue in closing roads and evacuating people in the vicinity.

Police said the following streets were closed:

  • Rupert Street
  • Elizabeth Street 
  • High Street
  • Beresford Street

The area of evacuation included a neighbourhood bounded by Rupert, Red River Road, Winnipeg and Beresford.

The Lakehead District Public School Board said that as a precaution, students at Ecole Gron Morgan School were kept indoors on Thursday even though the school is not in the immediate area of the gas leak. 

Spokesperson Bruce Nugent said in an e-mail to CBC News that the main concern was that students might wander into the evacuation area during lunch.