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PHOENIX -- Crews began digging their way Tuesday to gas lines that may be leaking in a Gilbert neighborhood.

"They're still getting very light readings out of the ground and their hope is that, as we open up these two trenches, it's going to release the remaining part of the gas that's giving the readings," said Gilbert Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Brian Ruffentine.

The leak was discovered Sunday, when a man lit a cigarette in his garage on the 1900 block of Palomino Drive. Firefighters originally believed a spark caused some old rags to catch fire.

But as crews were wrapping up the scene, Ruffentine said hazardous material crew began checking underground natural gas level in the neighborhood and discovered some abnormalities.

"The neighborhood itself does not have natural gas to it, but the adjoining one does" Ruffentine said. "We've got enough conflicting information from the metering that posed a question of whether or not we have got an underground gas leak."

Dozens of crews responded to the scene and began evacuating approximately 22 homes in the area near East Warner Road and South Val Vista, Ruffentine said.

The man was hospitalized with severe burns.

KTAR's Mark Remillard contributed to this report.

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