An ammonia leak at the White Castle distribution center in Covington, KY, forced nearby residents to shelter in place for 5 1/2 hours into Saturday night.
No one was injured in the incident, but some people living in the Tuscany subdivision were alarmed after the incident was reported at the White Castle Distribution Center on Rolling Hills and Madison Pike about 4:30 p.m.
One of the large freezers that holds frozen White Castle meals leaked high doses of ammonia refrigerant, officials said.
Safety was the first thing on firefighters’ minds as Capt. Kaleb Miller said firefighters knocked on doors and dispatch made reverse 911 calls to alert residents.
“This is the first time in my 10 years at Covington Fire that I’ve responded to an incident like this,” Miller said. “It’s not often that they happen, but when they do happen, they take a lot.”
The facility was empty when an alarm sounded. White Castle officials noticed an ammonia cloud coming out of the mechanical room and alerted Kenton County Emergency Dispatch, according to a news release from the City of Covington. The Northern Kentucky Hazardous Materials team responded along with Covington Fire and the Kenton County Emergency Management.
As a precaution, a Code Red phone alert notified residents to go in their homes, close doors and windows and turn off their furnaces, according to the news release. Covington firefighters set up a water curtain to capture the fumes and drag them to the ground, where they liquefied and were diluted, Fire Chief Mark Pierce said. The HazMat team then entered, shut off the leak and ventilated the building.
The all-clear was given about 9:30 p.m. and Ky. 17, which was closed north and south of Pioneer Park, reopened.