August 5, 2008

Champlain Centre Mall Evacuated

By Andrea VanValkenburg, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Aug. 5--PLATTSBURGH -- A propane spill led to the evacuation of parts of Champlain Centre midday Tuesday.

Dozens of shoppers and employees were evacuated from the mall shortly before noon when propane was spilled in the parking lot near the Food Court entrance.

"When we got out of the movies, all we could smell was gas. And they said we couldn't go outside (the Food Court) or get our cars," Penny Conroy of Morrisonville said as she waited in a nearby parking lot with another day-care provider and several small children.

"It smelled so bad, and nobody has told us anything. No one is out here to direct us or let us know what to do, so I guess we're just going to have to make the most of it."

Eve Brown of Ray Brook had just started shopping when she heard the evacuation order come over the loud speaker.

"It smelled really bad outside when I got here, and I had just gone into Hallmark when I heard we had to leave."

Like Brown, many shoppers left after the evacuation, though some lingered for a time, hoping to resume their afternoon outing since some stores between J.C. Penney's and Sears were remained open during the spill.

Hazardous-materials crews and District 3 firefighters were called to help clean the spill, which happened when crews working near the future Target site tried to remove four large in-ground AmeriGas propane tanks.

District 3 Assistant Chief Greg Burnell said three of the tanks were empty, but the fourth contained about 500 gallons of fuel, half of which dripped into the in-ground hole when a check valve malfunctioned.

Firefighters later sparked a controlled burn to get rid of the spilled fuel and remaining propane.

The mall was reopened a short time later, though Regal Cinemas was closed through the evening as crews finished their cleanup efforts outside the theaters.

Drivers were directed away from the Tom Miller Road entrance and parking lot during the spill, which also brought out crews from Cadyville, Morrisonville and Cumberland Head fire departments.

Ambulances were also in the area in case of an emergency as Beekmantown and South Plattsburgh firefighters provided standby support at the local station during the spill.

Burnell said one firefighter was treated for a heat-related injury during the emergency call, which kept crews at the mall for several hours.

A mall spokesperson did not return a Press-Republican message seeking comment on the spill.

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