Mont. Co. mall partially evacuated after freon leak

WHEATON – People were forced to flee two eateries and a tax preparation center Monday afternoon when Freon gas leaked from a heating and cooling unit at Westfield Mall in Wheaton.

“They told us we had to evacuate the building,” says Desiree Montgomery, a server at Ruby Tuesday restaurant.

No one was hurt when the Freon leaked inside H&R Block shortly before 2 p.m.  The tax preparation center was evacuated along with the two restaurants that bracket it – Hollywood East Café and Ruby Tuesday.

“Freon is dangerous to your respiratory tract, it can cause respiratory issues.  It’s also a flammable gas when it’s in high enough concentration,” explains Frank Doyle,  Battalion Chief, Montgomery County Fire Department who oversaw the emergency operation, which included a hazardous materials response unit.

A heating and cooling technician quickly stopped the leak.  But the area had to be verified safe by the Montgomery County Health Department before people could return to the three businesses.

The mall was busy with shoppers when the gas leak occurred and the evacuation left half-eaten meals at both restaurants.

“All of our tables that needed to cash out, they just left, no tips for us, no nothing, they just closed us down,”  Montgomery says.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

© 2015 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up