- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2009

Eight firefighters and a gas company worker were hurt Thursday afternoon in a gas explosion at a Maryland strip mall, authorities said.

Crews were called to a shopping center in Prince George’s County about a reported natural gas leak, said fire department spokesman Mark Brady. Mr. Brady said a gas company employee was working on a gas line at the time of the blast.

Mr. Brady said two firefighters were admitted to the burn unit at the Washington Hospital Center. All other victims were treated and released at local hospitals.

Foul play was not suspected in the blast in the 3400 block of Donnel Drive in Forestville.

“We’ve ruled out anything sinister or suspicious,” Mr. Brady said.

Jeanette Zak, a board member of the Forestville Pregnancy Center, called 911 to report the gas leak. Miss Zak said she watched from her car as firefighters tried to get into a vacant storefront next to the center. Then the store exploded.

“I could feel the heat from my car … and kind of the whoosh of the air,” Miss Zak said.

She said she felt fortunate that she called 911 on time and that no one at the center was hurt. Ordinarily, there would have been clients receiving counseling, but the counselor who works on Thursdays had a medical appointment.

Miss Zak speculated the gas leak might have been caused by recent renovations in the empty storefront.

A Subway sandwich shop and a Ledo Pizza restaurant are also located near the site of the explosion.

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