updated 2/11/2007 11:01:09 PM ET 2007-02-12T04:01:09

Thousands of people were evacuated from a mall Sunday afternoon after noxious fumes of unknown origin sickened people inside, fire officials said.

At least 36 people in NorthTown Mall sought treatment at hospitals, Spokane police said. Police called the fumes a “possible chemical irritant,” but still do not know what the irritant was.

Of those seeking treatment, 32 went to Holy Family Hospital and another four went to Sacred Heart Medical Center. Most complaints were about eye, nose and throat irritation.

None of the conditions were considered life threatening, Fire Chief Bobby Williams told The Spokesman-Review.

Hazardous materials crews were investigating the cause of the fumes. Shoppers and mall employees were told it was either a gas leak or pepper spray, the newspaper reported. Utility company Avista told KREM-TV they had not been called to the mall and said it was not a gas leak.

The mall was evacuated about 3:30 p.m. and closed for the day. Spokane police and firefighters blocked off mall entrances and placed yellow emergency tape across the doors. Mall employees were allowed to go back in to close up their stores, but shoppers were kept out.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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