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Firefighters credit workers for stopping plant’s ammonia leak from spreading

Dangerous leak could’ve spread to neighborhood, firefighters say

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio firefighters are crediting workers at a warehouse near downtown for preventing an ammonia leak from spreading throughout the neighborhood.

Warehouse near downtown given all-clear after overnight ammonia leak

Battalion chief Jarrett Vocke said the took quick action that kept the leak contained only to their building, located in the 1500 block of S. San Marcos.

”That was mitigated by keeping the doors closed, which was a good call on the employees’ part and we were able to slowly ventilate the structures,” Vocke said.

The process of ventilating the building, owned by Kiolbassa Smoked Meats, took most of the night.

Firefighters got the initial call about the leak shortly after 11:30 p.m. Monday but didn’t give the all-clear until around 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Protective gear and a decontamination station stand ready for use by this fire crew.
Protective gear and a decontamination station stand ready for use by this fire crew. (KSAT 12 News)

”Initially, when we first got on scene, not all employees were accounted for because they had left through different exits,” Vocke said.

Eventually, everyone did turn up.

Four employees who were complaining of breathing problems were checked out by paramedics at the scene. They did not have to be hospitalized.

Vocke said the most difficult task was clearing the ammonia from the building without causing a problem for people who live and work nearby.

”We were able to use water fogs to contain that and knock most of that out of the air so that we did not have a plume of ammonia going to any business or residential areas,” he said.

Firefighters were prepared for problems with a decontamination station.
Firefighters were prepared for problems with a decontamination station. (KSAT 12 News)

Fire crews were suited up for the trouble, and had a decontamination station set up just in case it was needed.

A hazardous materials crew, which Vocke said is trained specifically for this type of event, led the effort to clean up and clear out the building.

Laura Waldrum, Director of Marketing and Communications for Kiolbassa Smoked Meats, said the plant should be up and running in about a day.


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