Government Police/Fire

Town Center Building in West Hartford Evacuated Thursday for Hazmat Incident

Town Center Building, 29 South Main St., West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Emergency crews responded to 29 South Main St. Thursday afternoon after a fire alarm was triggered and found a refrigerant leak.

By Ronni Newton

An fire alarm was activated at an office building in West Hartford Center Thursday afternoon, and all occupants were evacuated for what the West Hartford Fire Department discovered was a refrigerant leak from a piece of heating/ventilation/air-conditioning (HVAC) on the second floor.

There alarm was triggered at 3:41 p.m., and when West Hartford Fire Department’s Engine 1 and Engine 2 crews arrived at 3:44 p.m. there was no visible smoke or fire, according to a report by Battalion Chief Keith Albert.

Engine 2 crews entered the building, Albert’s report said, and found the refrigerant leak.

A technician had been working on the HVAC system when a crack occurred in a compressor causing R22 refrigerant to leak, the report said.

R22, chlorodifluoromethane or difluoromonochloromethane, commonly known as Freon, is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon and is now banned by the Environmental Protection Agency because of its role in damaging the ozone layer.

Fire Department crews successfully isolated the refrigerant supply to the compressor, and were able to prevent the R22 from being dispersed to other parts of the building by shutting down the ventilation system.

A Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Emergency Response unit was also at the scene and assisted in the mitigation plan, the fire department said.

The level of refrigerant that had been released throughout the building was measured using specialized detection equipment, and indicated that the amount of R22 released was “not at levels immediately dangerous to life or health but may have caused temporary irritation with no long-term effects,” Albert’s report said.

There were no reports of illness or other symptoms reported by occupants in the building, fire officials said. One firefighter did go to a local hospital for evaluation of a minor injury but was treated and released, and returned to duty.

The building was fully ventilated to remove the refrigerant, and will be able to be reoccupied as soon as the HVAC system is repaired.

The West Hartford Fire Department appreciates the assistance of the West Hartford Police Department, DEEP Emergency Response Unit, American Medical Response, and emergency dispatchers in this incident, and also thanks the Hartford Fire Department which provided mutual aid to cover portions of West Hartford while units were committed.

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