Hundreds of gallons of heating fuel leaked from a maintenance area at the ZCMI Center Friday afternoon, partially closing traffic on Main Street between Second South and Third South for several hours as Salt Lake firefighters and street department crews worked to sop up the mess.

Fire Department Battalion Chief LaMont Epperson said as much as 2,000 gallons or more may have leaked onto the street and into the city's storm drain system. He said nobody knows yet exactly how much fuel oil was spilled."We were notified at 3:04 p.m. Friday, but the leak had been going on for some time, possibly 30 to 40 minutes or more. The fuel is used to fire the mall's boilers. Some work was apparently being done on a tank containing fuel oil, and a valve failed to close. The oil ran out of the mall near the cross walk at 50 S. Main and ran down the gutter on the east side of the street almost toThird South."

Some 25 people from the fire department, including a hazardous-materials unit from Station 6, three engines and a ladder truck were called out, Epperson said.

"The fuel isn't as flammable as kerosene or diesel fuel, or we would have had a lot more to worry about," he said. "If it had been gasoline, we probably would have had a fire someplace along the spill."

Epperson said he was worried about the fuel oil getting into the Jordan River and damaging the environment. He said he had stationed firefighters at the point where the storm drain empties into the river at Sixth South to monitor whetherany fuel oil was escaping.

City street department crews dumped loads of gravel onto Main Street near Third South to dam up the flow of fuel oil in the gutter, and hazardous-materials crews used special absorbent materials to try to suck up the fuel.