TV newscast interrupted by smoke

February 22, 2003|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

WMAR-TV evacuated its Anneslie offices and went off the air for a half-hour during yesterday evening's newscast after smoke billowing from a car parked outside was sucked into the building, triggering fire alarms and sprinklers.

None of the 80 employees inside Baltimore's ABC affiliate was injured.

Drew Berry, the general manager, said props, file footage and electronic equipment may have been damaged by the smoke and water, and the station lost revenue by not being able to show commercials. He did not know what the financial loss would be.

Smoke began filling the building at 6400 York Road, just over the city line in Baltimore County, during the first report in the station's 5 p.m. newscast.

"It looked like a smoky haze permeating the second floor," said Berry, whose office is on the second floor, where the smoke was particularly heavy.

Nancy Nydam, the acting news director, said employees elsewhere smelled an acrid odor. "It smells very electrical," Nydam said.

Fire alarms sounded throughout the building, and sprinklers started spraying in a storage room by the television studio.

While most employees evacuated, a few placed a rug and sandbags by the studio's door to protect the room's expensive electronic equipment.

Baltimore County Fire Division Chief Danelle England-Dansicker blamed a smoking car parked on a side of the building, beside an air intake vent.

"It pulled that smoke and odor into the building," she said. It was unclear last night whose car it was.

Employees returned to the building about a half-hour after the evacuation, and the newscast resumed shortly thereafter. An acrid smell lingered for about 20 minutes.

Berry said fire alarms sound a few times each year, but nothing this serious had happened before.

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