(NECN: Mike Cronin) - Barbara Mitchell is a cook at Heritage Coffee Shop in Auburn, Mass. She came to work before 6 a.m. on Tuesday, but knew something was wrong when she smelled gas.
"I knew it was abundantly because my throat was burning. I knew that it was something serious," she said.
The fire department and NSTAR found dangerous levels of natural gas throughout the Heritage Mall. Firefighters had to dig out a gas meter to shut it off.
"We were able to at least get the gas shut off at the meter and then it was a matter of reducing potential ignition sources in the area and then ventilation of the property which we were able to do fairly quickly," Auburn Fire Chief Stephen Coleman said.
Firefighters forced their way into the Great Expressions Dental Center to ventilate, which had the highest levels of gas readings.
"You know, a little nervous. Everybody gets nervous about gas, but it was handled perfectly by the fire department and the NSTAR gas," Lynn Buckminster of Great Expressions said.
Chief Coleman says on Monday, the property's landlord removed snow and ice from the mall's roof, but some was pushed onto a metal roof extension over the gas meter. Coleman says that roof got weighed down by the snow and ice and it fell, which damaged the meter.
Coleman is asking people to be mindful of where they place their snow.
"And if it looks like they're getting excess snow, we're certainly recommending that they clear those, but you just need to be cognoscente where you're placing the snow. You definitely want to keep your services clear, both electrical and gas," Chief Coleman.
Coleman is hoping this winter isn't a repeat of two years ago, when he says 11 roofs collapsed in Auburn. He says his department is monitoring some other commercial properties to make sure there aren’t any problems this year.
"People have been taking some precautions on their own but we do monitor that and if there are areas or specific buildings where it looks like we're concerned, we'll definitely touch base with the property owners," he said.