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Ammonia Leaks From Fire At Refrigeration Building In Seattle

November 14, 1988

SEATTLE (AP) _ Ammonia gas seeped from a cold-storage building during a blaze that sent three fightfighters to the hospital and resulted in the evacuation of about 100 people from their homes, officials said today.

The multi-alarm fire was burning out of control early today at the Rainier Cold Storage and Ice building, said Deputy Fire Chief Steve Bailey. He said the building’s walls are packed with sawdust and the sawdust was smoldering.

″This is a fire we dreaded occurring and it occurred,″ Bailey said. ″We could be here for days.″

The back wall of the four-story, turn-of-the century building, originally built by the Rainier Brewing Co., collapsed as flames shot out its windows.

The cause of the fire, which broke out Sunday night, had not been determined, Bailey said.

About 4,000 pounds of ammonia were in the lines that supply the building’s refrigeration, said Mike Roberts, Rainier vice president of marketing and warehousing. The bottom floor was an ice plant, he said.

Roberts said 22-room structure contained about 13 million pounds of fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood.

The odor of ammonia was evident in the area near the blaze.

″Normally, it dissipates easily. We had a cloud on the ground and at one time we had a cloud moving up, so it’s hard to tell which way it’s going to go,″ he said.

Ammonia in high enough concentrations can cause burns on the throat and lungs and can be fatal.

Three firefighters were taken to Harborview Medical Center. One firefighter who inhaled ammonia was admitted in satisfactory condition, said nursing supervisor Pamela Fanton. A firefighter with a leg injury and another who suffered chest pains were released.

About 10 blocks in the mostly industrial area were cordoned off, said police Sgt. Gary Morrell. About 100 people were taken to an emergency shelter at a nearby high school, said Hope Tuttle, Red Cross director of public affair.

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