Work Day Halts After Gas Leak in Scranton

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A natural gas leak forced the evacuation of an office building in downtown Scranton Thursday.

Scranton firefighters say that gas leak in the Oppenheim Building on Lackawanna Avenue came from the building's heating system but was very minor.

The result was, at first, alarming to first responders. Several people became ill from the smell, two were sent to the hospital. Firefighters thought they were dealing with a carbon monoxide leak.

Some people who work inside the Oppenheim Building on Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton were already outside trying to get some fresh air when the fire trucks and ambulances pulled up prepared for the worst.

First responders evacuated the building and told the 100 or so workers they couldn't come back until they found the source of the leak.

"Everything was here and then we realized it's a real situation and we stood around and tried to figure out what to do. It's kind of exciting," said Mary Lou Valenti who works inside the building.

The evacuation lead to a lot of confusion on busy Lackawanna Avenue. Many people stopped by the Oppenheim, where the Social Security Administration is housed. But, they were met by firefighters and were turned away.

Traffic was shut down to make room for all the emergency vehicles.

"Initially when the call came in we were told four patients, and as people were coming out and wanting to be evaluated we thought were going to have a higher number of transported patients. But, we only ended up transporting two," said Bruce Beauvais of Pennsylvania Ambulance.

People who work inside the building and first responders first feared a carbon monoxide leak because six people became sick all of a sudden.

Firefighters checked it out and cleared the building about an hour and a half later and found there wasn't a carbon monoxide leak. They did find a minor natural gas leak.

"We could smell gas yesterday actually in the hallway, but we thought it was because they were moving a water fountain and there was an exposed pipe. So, maybe that's part of it," added Valenti.

Firefighters said the natural gas leak was found on the building's eighth floor coming from the building's heating unit but it was very minor.

The people taken to the hospital are expected to be ok.