Smoke forces evacuation of office tower

July 25, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County firefighters evacuated 700 employees yesterday morning from the Investment Building in Towson after discovering smoke in the top floor of the 13-story office tower.

County administrators allowed the workers to leave for the day as fire officials tried to determine the cause of the smoke. The building is located north of Towson Town Center. The county pays nearly $900,000 a year to lease space in the building, where state and county employees work, mainly in the county health and social services departments. The building has been the source of persistent health complaints by those workers, who say ventilation is poor.

Officials said they received a call at 8:23 a.m. yesterday from an alarm company. When officials arrived they discovered smoke - but no fire - inside an elevator and on the top floor, said Alonza Williams, a county fire spokesman.

"The penthouse was filled with smoke," Williams said.

The employees were evacuated as a precaution. None was injured, but a firefighter was treated for exhaustion, Williams said.

Last month, officials discovered several maintenance problems, and members of the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health conducted a surprise inspection. This month, A.M.G. Realty Partners of New York - owner of the building - agreed to begin renovations. A $3 million ventilation system upgrade is planned.

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