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Irmo Fire District crews respond to haz-mat incident at US Food’s Chef Store

St. Andrews, SC (Paul Kirby) – The Irmo Fire District responded to a report of a refrigerant leak at the US Food’s Chef Store Monday afternoon. The store is located at 655 St. Andrews Road near I-26 in the St. Andrews area of the county.

According to Battalion Chief Randy Arant with the Irmo Fire District, they received the call regarding the leak at 1:40 p.m. Dispatchers notified the responding crews that there was a Freon leak in one of the store’s refrigerant systems and the store’s employees were evacuating the building.

Arant said that when the district’s crews arrived on scene, they entered the structure and noticed a vapor cloud near one of the walk-in refrigerators. Store employees confirmed that the leak was the system’s Freon gas once the district’s firefighters arrived.

The first due fire crews entered the store and were able to find an active Freon leak in the cooler’s gas system. They used a 5-gas air monitor to check the atmospheric conditions inside the building. That monitor alerted them that the atmosphere inside the store was flammable.

Crews shut down the power to the refrigerator that was experiencing the problem. While this was being done, firefighters double checked the store to make sure no one was inadvertently left inside the structure.

Arant said that at some point after the fire district’s arrival, the Freon inside the refrigerator leaked completely out. They set up several ventilation fans at the front door, opened the roof hatch, and ventilated the structure until their monitored readings were within acceptable ranges.

During the incident, US Foods had a refrigerator repair person arrive on scene. That repair technician advised fire officers that the refrigerator system they were dealing with could hold approximately 800 lbs. of Freon. No one was able to identify the exact amount of Freon that leaked out during this incident. The cause of the Freon leak had not been determined.

Once the ventilation of the building was complete, the firefighters turned the property back over to the company’s management and returned to their stations.

The Irmo Fire District was assisted by crews from the Columbia Fire Department during this incident.

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