Police and utility companies are investigating an unusual theft, that could have turned dangerous.

"Just shock.  I mean, that's quite daring. Gas is dangerous,"Ellie Shore said.  "They could've blown themselves up. or blown up the neighborhood."

The smell of leaking gas leads to the discovery of a theft that could have endangered homes and lives in an East Wichita neighborhood.

Kansas Gas Service (KGS) said someone dug into the ground to steal gas from a service line.  It's a kind of theft, we hadn't heard about before.

A pile of dirt is still visible where the KGS crews dug down to cap off the pipeline someone had tapped illegally.  Neighbors called for help when they started smelling the gas in the air.

"The smell. There was a strong gas smell outside," Shore said.  "And it went into my garage."

Shore lives just a couple houses down from where KGS says its pipeline was tapped.

"It's really scary," she said.

But earlier this week, she and her neighbors just thought there was a gas leak and called the company.

"And there were just all these trucks with lights and cones and they were working," Shore said. "I don't know what they were doing. Later on I looked out the window and there was some sort of backhoe or something."

What they were doing was digging around to find the 'leak' and cap it.

"I'm just glad that the gas company responded so really quickly and they were right on the job. And that made me feel safe, certainly," said Shore.

It turned out someone else had been digging first and had tapped the service line for their own use, stealing the natural gas.

"And when I came back I asked them, you know, if everything's safe and they said, 'Yeah, it looks like it'll be ok'," Shore said.

Except, perhaps, for the thieves.

"The rest is up to the police, I'm sure."

While natural gas is highly flammable experts say you'll smell it long before it reaches dangerous levels because of a chemical companies add.  It smells something like rotten eggs.

If you smell natural gas, they say you should call for help immediately, which is what folks here did.

Kansas Gas Service says it wants to prosecute the thieves in this case.  But police haven't made any arrests just yet.