Reports of a gas leak at the Dover Mall brought in Dover city firefighters and has resulted in the closure of the Carmike 14 Theatre.
The fire department received the call at 4:56 p.m. on Monday, said Assistant Fire Chief Mark Hall, when an employee reported the odor of gas in the vicinity of the theater. Firefighters and experts from Chesapeake Utilities arrived on the scene almost simultaneously, Hall said.
The 14 theaters in the mall complex were evacuated immediately, Hall said.
There were no injuries reported, he added.
An investigation to find the source of the odor indicated a gasket had ruptured due to water damage and was allowing gas to be pumped through an air handler and directly into the theater's air conditioning system. The air handling equipment is on the roof of the theater, Hall said.
Power to the air handler was cut off, as was the gas flow, and firefighters set up five large capacity fans inside the theater to move the contaminated air out through opened doors.
Dover city Fire Marshal David Truax ordered the theater closed until maintenance personnel could evaluate the problem.
The leaking gas was contained to the theater and did not affect the remainder of the Dover Mall property, Hall said. None of the Dover Mall air circulation units are gas units, according to Tricia Southard, the mall's director of marketing and business development.
Maintenance personnel repaired the unit and were set to inspect all of the gaskets in Carmike's air handling system, Hall said.
Hall said the gas levels in the theater could have caused a major disaster under the proper circumstances.
"It was a very dangerous situation," he said. "The gas levels in the air were dangerously high. If there had been an ignition source, it could have been a lot worse."