Propane leak forces evacuations in Anne Arundel County

Construction accident prompts haz-mat response near shopping mall

March 22, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

Dozens of people were evacuated from businesses near a large Anne Arundel County mall Tuesday morning after a cylinder carrying 250 gallons of highly flammable propane began leaking.

The leak erupted when the cylinder fell from a forklift and broke a valve, according to a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. The incident occurred shortly after 9 a.m. on the construction site of a LongHorn Steakhouse restaurant on Arundel Mills Circle in Hanover.

People within a half-mile radius of the site — most of them in businesses — were told to leave the area, said the spokesman, Capt. James Rostek. No single-family homes were affected and neither was the Arundel Mills shopping mall, which is near the site of the leak but not close enough to be included in the evacuation area, Rostek said.

A hazardous-materials team from the fire department attempted to plug the leak but was unable to, and had no choice but to allow the gas to vent. The liquid gas turns to vapor when vented and can cause respiratory distress, Rostek said, although no one had been sickened by early afternoon.

Fire crews remained on alert for the possibility that a fire could be sparked by the gas, or that the tank itself might explode.

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