There was an ammonia leak at Reddy Ice Company in El Paso, TX, that evacuated dozens of employees of a nearby baking company late Tuesday night, fire officials said.
There were no employees inside Reddy Ice, but workers at Flowers Baking Company of El Paso, were in the middle of their shift when they smelled a strong odor of ammonia, said El Paso Fire Department officials.
They called 911 and 41 employees evacuated the building around 11 p.m., said EPFD spokesman Carlos Briano. No one suffered any injuries.
A HazMat team arrived and prepared to enter Reddy Ice in white hazmat suits.
At 1:49 a.m. firefighters shut off all six ammonia valves and exited the building to undergo decontamination.
A second HazMat team entered the building to detect ammonia levels several times overnight.
“These HazMat incidents are a slow operation. Safety is of the utmost importance, so we are not going to rush the operation. We are going to take our time to make sure everything is safe,” Briano said.
At 5:07 a.m., employees of Flowers Baking Co. were able to go back inside and continue work.
Flowers Baking President Larry Baldwin was in Albuquerque on business when he learned about the incident. He drove to El Paso overnight and arrived while crews were still at the scene. Flowers Baking produces Sunbeam and Nature’s Own bread products inside the factory.
Baldwin said he was “very proud” of his employees for reacting so quickly. He added the employees have an evacuation plan in case of emergency.
Briano said it’s important all businesses have a plan in place when employees encounter unknown chemicals.
“They should evacuate, call 911. It’s a very dangerous (ammonia) substance.”
The fire department cleared the scene at about 6 a.m.
As for the bread produced at Flowers Baking, Baldwin said the company would scrap it for safety.