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Gas leak causes Foxshire Plaza evacuation

March 12, 2004

More than 20 employees and customers were evacuated from Foxshire Plaza on Dual Highway in Hagerstown on Thursday after a natural gas line was ruptured behind the building.

Funkstown Fire Co. Lt. Chris Showe said a landscaping company performing repairs in the back of the shopping center around 9 a.m. struck a fairly large natural gas line with an auger.

Showe said Howell Road, which runs behind the shopping center, was closed for nearly 45 minutes as Columbia Gas worked to control the leak.

"We knew as soon as we got there ... it was a human error," he said.

People were evacuated from the shopping center's stores as a precaution, he said. They were not let back inside the shops until the fire company checked each store for gas still present inside.

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Pure Pizzazz store owner Sharon Frey said she was completely booked Thursday in her beauty parlor and had to send a few customers outside with their hair wet.

Even with the odor of the chemicals used in her shop, Frey's employees said the smell of the gas was overwhelming. Standing about 100 feet away from their store, many of them held their shirts over their noses and mouths.

"The smell is very strong in our store," said Eric Funk, a sales associate at U.S. Cellular in the shopping center.

After standing outside for more than 30 minutes, Funk said he just wanted to go back to work.

Showe said people needed to be evacuated because some may not have realized there was a leak.

"They might turn on the light switch and it may be the right (ratio of gas) that it explodes," he said.

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