A propane gas leak Thursday from Pita Pockets at the Arcade Shopping Center forced businesses to be temporarily evacuated, at least one school to be put into lockdown and disrupted traffic, according to multiple sources.
“Upon arrival, firefighters quickly located the source of the leak and evacuated all occupants of the building as a precaution. Thankfully, everyone is safe and there were no injuries reported,” said Deputy Chief Marcos Osorio in a statement.
The strip mall at 180 Crandon Blvd. is home to numerous businesses, such as Pita Pockets, Subway, Key 2 Dance & Fitness and the Island Veterinary Hospital.
In fact, Key Biscayne Fire Department needed to evacuate cats and two sun conures from Dr. Steve Eastman’s animal clinic. The animals are permanent residents there.
“Usually I wouldn’t be here by myself except on Thursday mornings,” said Eastman’s manager Tina Bay. “It wasn’t a big deal. The hairdresser helped me. It was just three cats and two birds.”
After the leak was reported around 9 a.m. the cats and the birds ended up on the sidewalk on Fernwood Street – the cats in an extra large carrier and the birds in the cage. The animals and business owners waited until all was clear to return around 12:30 p.m.
Police and fire responded in force, barricading the scene and sending in a hazmat team. The Village transmitted a traffic advisor telling drivers to expect delays around Crandon Boulevard and Harbor Drive yet once again.
Federico Elkarout, owner of Pita Pockets, was waiting outside the scene. He said he shuts off the gas valve every evening and firefighters but that the dance studio next door reported smelling gas when he came.
“The neighbors came in and smelled gas and everybody thought it would be my place,” he said.
Osorio said the gas company will begin repairs to restore propane service.
St. Agnes Academy, the school at the Catholic church on Harbor Drive, sent out an alert to parents: “For the safety and security of our students, we have decided to keep them in their classes until further notice.”
It’s been quite a year for Pita Pockets, the Lebanese eatery. In September, Elkarout was threatened in his store by a man with an AK-47 in a large guitar case.
The Key Biscayne Fire Rescue Department reminds everyone of the importance of gas safety measures, including:
• Regularly inspect gas appliances and lines for leaks.
• Install carbon monoxide detectors and ensure they are functioning properly.
• If you smell gas, do not light any matches or flames, and evacuate the building immediately.
• Call 911 to report the leak.
Editor’s note:This story updates a previous version with new information from the Key Biscayne FIre Department.