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How a propane-powered saw, hot temps led to carbon monoxide leak at Short Pump mall

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Construction work inside of an upcoming store at Short Pump Town Center caused the evacuation of more than a dozen businesses, according to a Henrico Fire official.

Henrico Fire Capt. Rob Rowley confirmed alarms indicating elevated levels of carbon monoxide prompted the evacuation at the outdoor mall in Henrico County on Wednesday afternoon.

Rowley stated construction workers using a propane-powered ceramic saw caused the dangerous gas to dissipate to 15 stores.

"Carbon monoxide is a gas that’s colorless, odorless and mixes so well with the air," he said. "Combine that with the fact it was 90 degrees that day, there was very little wind, and high humidity helped spread it."

Shoppers were allowed to return to some stores starting at about 2:30 p.m., the fire department spokesperson said.

Sonya Pusey and her daughter arrived at the mall to find Apple store employees and customers waiting outside.

"I thought maybe there was some new product or a release that I was shocked I didn’t know about it," she said. "But, we did notice the fire trucks on the outside."

They snapped a picture of firefighters working inside the store during the evacuation.

"When you go to the mall you don’t see that every time," Isabel Pusey explained.

Amy Towne, the manager at the luggage store Tumi, said she was rushed to the emergency room after falling ill at work.

"Around noon-ish I wasn’t feeling well. I was feeling really tired, dizzy, lightheaded, and nauseous," Towne explained. "It wasn’t until the fire department showed up in the store, which was after 1:30 p.m. that we were told there were high levels of carbon monoxide in our building and we had to evacuate."

Towne spent the night at the hospital and was treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. She was released and allowed to recover at home Thursday morning.

"It’s kind of an eye-opener as sometimes you have to take your symptoms a little bit more seriously instead of just passing it off as I need to have a snack," she stated.

Rowley called the incident a high profile example of how dangerous carbon monoxide exposure can be to the public.

He recommended all families install carbon monoxide detectors throughout their home.

Officials credited a team effort from Henrico Police, Henrico Fire and Short Pump Town Center personnel for helping mitigate the situation.

CBS 6 reached out to Short Pump mall management for more information, but we haven't heard back.

The incident remained under investigation.

This is a developing story. Witnesses can send news tips, photos, and video here.

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