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Bomb scare at Wheaton high-rise prompts temporary evacuation

Many residents had been taken to a nearby recreation center

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Montgomery County firefighters partially cleared a high-rise apartment building in downtown Wheaton on Thursday morning after one of its residents reported having a bomb in his unit, officials said Thursday morning.

But investigators who got into the unit found no explosives, and by noon officials were planning to move residents back in, according to Battalion Chief Jason Blake.

Shortly before 8 a.m., firefighters responded to a fire alarm at “The Exchange,” which has approximately 17 floors that rise above a Safeway grocery store, Blake said. The building has 486 apartment units, Blake said.

After arriving, the firefighters encountered a man who said he pulled the alarm and that there was a bomb in his apartment. Investigators were able to see inside his apartment, and indeed noted a “suspicious looking” package.

“What they saw gave them concern,” Blake said from the scene.

Residents were asked to leave the building, with many being taken to a nearby recreation center, as investigators entered the apartment with a neutralization plan, according to Blake.

“The suspicious package was rendered safe,” he said, and it was determined to not be an explosive.