They routinely train for hazardous material emergencies, but little could prepare Baltimore County firefighters for repeated calls from throughout the Hunt Valley Industrial Park, which forced them to evacuate numerous buildings Tuesday morning.
"All of the sudden, the trainer said it smelled like gas and we started seeing everybody leave," said Lisa Arrington, a NextGen Healthcare worker.
Arrington and Shana Johnson were working on the sixth floor of the Executive Plaza III building when they got the word to evacuate.
"As soon as we came down to the bottom level, the gas really hit you when you first walked out," said Arrington.
"It's really strong in the building. In the entire building you can smell the fumes. The aroma just started going through the building. We're not sure where it came from while we were working, but it's extremely strong in there," added Johnson.
In a scene, which repeated itself at several buildings throughout the complex, firefighters and BGE crews that specialize in gas emergencies moved from one building to the next throughout the day trying to track down the source of the odor.
"There often are evacuations so that we can get into the building, try to see if there's any obvious source, so that we can ventilate the building and then the other thing, of course, that we need to do is try to treat any patients that are suffering any kind of symptoms,” said Elise Armacost of the Baltimore County Fire Department. “In this case, we had one person who was transported to a local hospital."
Still, the source of the odor remains a mystery to the emergency responders, but the evacuees we spoke with seemed content with their effort and the fact they were taking the reports seriously.
"Your heart starts pounding when they say, 'Evacuate!'" said Arrington.
"It made us very nervous, but everyone came out,” said Johnson, “The fire department, they evacuated the building immediately to keep us safe, so thank God for that. So we're out here trying to get some air and stay warm in the car."
At this point, firefighters and BGE crews can't even confirm it is a gas leak, but at last report, they are still trying to determine the source of the fumes.