Three Ninth Street businesses evacuated due to chemical smell

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | 10:20 p.m. CDT; updated 11:07 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

COLUMBIA — Firefighters evacuated three downtown businesses Wednesday night after a report of a gas smell.

After testing the area, investigators determined there was no threat of a natural gas leak. Instead, the smell was caused by a worker who applied water sealant to a nearby store which was under construction, said Columbia Fire Battalion Chief Gary Warren.

Ninth Street Video, Sparky’s and Kaldi’s Coffeehouse, all located on Ninth Street between Cherry Street and Broadway, were evacuated.

The firefighters were called at 8:53 p.m. The businesses were allowed to open a short time later.

The chemical odor of water sealant can be mistaken for natural gas, Warren said.

“We aren’t, but some folks might be (nervous about natural gas),” Warren said. “Gas odors are not uncommon calls. Some are legitimate. A good number are not.”

Investigators determined this week that natural gas was the cause of Friday’s explosion at an East Campus home. Homeowner Carl Sneed, 87, was killed, and his wife, Merna Sneed, 84, was critically injured.

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