Facility in Clearfield evacuated due to ammonia leak

Posted at 8:53 AM, Nov 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-20 00:11:51-05

CLEARFIELD, Utah - We often praise our first responders for handling the heat and battling the blaze, but Saturday they were asked to run into a building that was freezing cold, and it was just as dangerous.

“So we had an ammonia tank that was ruptured,” said John Taylor, deputy chief and fire marshal in North Davis.

Ammonia detection alarms went off, and, within an instant, it was a hazardous material situation. Employees of the Americold facility in Clearfield, 35 in total, quickly evacuated. Crews say they think a piece of equipment hit the tank.

“It did cause a release of ammonia into the atmosphere," Taylor said. "At this point it's unsure how many pounds of ammonia was released."

Ammonia is used as the coolant for this cold storage facility center. While it may cool efficiently, the ammonia can also be deadly because it's corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs.

“We had two employees that were exposed a little bit to the product, they were brought out and we had medical on scene that assessed them,” Taylor said.

Those employees are expected to be OK. But it was the heroes in fire suits from Layton and Davis who went in.

“Our guys were able to respond and shut the pumps off, shut some valves off that were able to isolate the leak,” Taylor said.

Crews had to be hosed off to ensure they didn't have remnants of the dangerous chemical on them. The County Health Department also came out to make sure the area was safe. Thanks to the fast action of everyone there, everyone is OK.

“Yeah, the potential was great, but, of course, the employees at the facility acted quickly and notified us," Taylor said. "We were able to respond and get things shut off before it became worse of a problem."

Chief Taylor said the building has been totally cleared of ammonia and that Americold has been let back in to assess the damage.