An evacuation order has been lifted downtown around the Inner Harbor after an hours-long investigation into a parked van that turned out to be filled with siphoned diesel fuel, rather than gas intended to be used as explosives.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said in a statement Monday afternoon, almost six hours after fire department units and police responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle, that “no bomb was detected.”
In a follow-up announcement at about 5:30 p.m., he said a evacuation notice on a four-block radius has been lifted, with “all buildings and streets in the area, except the garage at 100 E. Pratt [S]treet” now reopened.
“The suspicious vehicle in question is not a threat and is in the process of being removed from the garage,” he said, noting there will be an update on when the garage can be accessed.
“I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation during this investigation.”
Fire and police officials had said at a press conference at City Hall earlier Monday morning that they were called to a parking garage for a reported vehicle leaking fuel, and found a van parked and filled with around 1,000 gallons of gasoline. The call came in at 10:39 a.m., Young’s office had said.
Officials responded by evacuating the area around the 28-story office building, which houses T. Rowe Price, PricewaterhouseCoopers and other firms, and closing off surrounding city blocks, which created a horrendous traffic jam.
As it turns out, officials later said they found the driver of the van was carrying two containers of stolen diesel fuel–far less than they initially announced–but had no plans to use it in a violent manner, several outlets report. Cables spotted coming from the van were being used for siphoning, but not any further threat, they said.
Lt. Col. Sheree Brisco said during a brief update at City Hall that for public safety concerns, the Baltimore police and fire departments evacuated buildings and public areas nearby.
“At this point we just want to ensure that all of our community is safe, and that anyone that does not need to travel to the downtown area, and specifically that four-block radius… remain out of the area while we assess exactly what it is that we have,” she said.
The city’s Department of Transportation blocked off roads, including sections of Lombard, Pratt, Light and Calvert streets. TV stations showed downtown streets cordoned off by yellow tape and fire trucks.
Traffic and public transit remained hampered during evening rush hour. DOT asked drivers to avoid the southbound Jones Falls Expressway entirely.
“Citizens are strongly encouraged to use alternate routes away from the downtown area if possible this afternoon to avoid heavy traffic conditions,” the agency said in a statement at around 5:30 p.m.
In an unrelated problem nearby, an electrical transformer reportedly blew out in Fells Point, shutting off traffic signals on Fleet Street from Harbor East down to Fells Point.
Numerous traffic signals out in Fells Point & Harbor East. Please treat all signal outages as a 4-way stop and use caution if traveling in this area. https://t.co/Pb7Uypdnx4
— Baltimore City DOT (@BmoreCityDOT) September 9, 2019
Those who drove downtown were unable to access their cars for hours until the evacuation notice was lifted. Young asked those drivers to “please find alternative transportation home.”
Brandon Weigel contributed to this report.
This story has been updated.
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