A broken gas pipe and subsequent gas leak forced the brief, early-morning evacuation of the popular Parkway Plaza mall in San Diego’s East County Tuesday.
El Cajon Police Department (ECPD) Lt. Rob Ransweiler said the broken gas main was located next to a Walmart store at 605 Fletcher Parkway. The Walmart is one of several department stores that anchor the mall.
Construction crews hit the 1-inch gas pipe while performing excavation work in the west parking lot outside the Walmart store, Ken Gray, the marketing director for Parkway Plaza said.
As a precaution, officials evacuated the west side of the Walmart at around 8:20 a.m., along with anyone else working inside the mall. Parkway Plaza opens to the public at 10 a.m., so only the Walmart store and a few food vendors were open at the time of the incident.
Within an hour, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) crews had the leak under control, said Joe Britton, the communications manager for the company.
Heartland Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Brian Manns said his crews monitored the leak and air quality and determined when the store was safe to re-enter. No one was hurt.
Gray said the rest of the mall would open at its normally scheduled time.
The ordeal did make for a rather eventful morning for mall employees.
Walmart employee Steven Zamora said his manager called him before his shift to tell him what was happening but Zamora told NBC 7 it was still alarming to see so many fire engines surrounding his workplace.
"When I first walked in and smelled everything it was pretty scary because it’s gas and it can explode and all that. So, it was pretty nerve-racking," he explained. "But, luckily, everyone seems to be fine and safe."