Leaking ammonia forces evacuation near icehouse

The Baltimore Sun

An ammonia leak at an old icehouse in West Baltimore caused an evacuation near the building that suffered an extensive fire in 2004.

Homes in the 500 block of N. Pulaski St., less than a block east of the Baltimore American Ice Co. in the 2100 block of W. Franklin St., were evacuated because of the strong odor of ammonia, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman.

The 15 evacuees were put on warm MTA buses, Cartwright said. One person complained of breathing problems but refused hospital treatment. Other residents in the area received automated phone calls telling them to stay inside and close their windows, Cartwright said.

The leak, which happened about 8:30 p.m., came from an ammonia pipe broken by workers who were tearing down part of the building, Cartwright said. In March 2004, a fire swept through the ice factory, the second major blaze in three years.

Last night, the Fire Department set up a mobile command center at West Saratoga and North Smallwood streets, consulting maps to coordinate the evacuation. Thirty-five pieces of firefighting equipment - including a hazardous-materials unit - and nearly 80 firefighters were on the scene.

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