Shoppers evacuate Costco after chemical smoke fills store

Customers return to shopping at Costco after a coolant leak inside the store triggered a brief evacuation, St. George, Utah, July 6, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Shopping was cut short early for customers at Costco Thursday evening when a coolant leak triggered an evacuation of the building.

Customers return to shopping at Costco after a coolant leak inside the store triggered a brief evacuation, St. George, Utah, July 6, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

St. George Fire responded to the incident at the Costco at 835 N. 3050 E. in St. George at approximately 5 p.m.

“It was a minor refrigeration leak,” St. George Fire Deputy Chief Kevin Taylor said.

A coolant used for mechanical refrigeration had escaped, causing smoke to fill the air inside the store.

Repair crews arrived on scene and isolated the leak, which was determined not to be hazardous in nature.

“It was contained,” Taylor said. “The air was sampled. Any residual material that was left in the building was evacuated out. No injuries and no reports of any issues with customers or staff.”

The evacuation lasted about 30 minutes, a Costco store manager said, declining to comment further on the incident.

A crowd of approximately 40 people waited outside in the shade near the store entrance as the fire department investigated the leak. A slight odor that witnesses described as “chemical” in nature lingered as shoppers filed back inside.

Marjorie Dunmire had been in the store shopping with some family members for about 10 minutes before the evacuation was ordered. She was standing in line at the food court when an employee said the store would need to be evacuated.

I looked toward the back, and there was haziness,” Dunmire said. “You couldn’t really see big smoke or anything. It was just hazy.”

As the evacuation ensued, Dunmire said she observed some customers not taking the situation seriously.

“People started filing out nice and normal, but what I couldn’t believe was that there were some people that were going up still trying to buy food and trying to pick up their pizzas,” she said. “I couldn’t believe they were still trying to get them instead of evacuating the store because there’s smoke in the store.”

Dunmire said she takes any situation with the potential for fire seriously, having been affected by the 1980 Panorama Fire near San Bernardino that destroyed over 300 homes and killed four people.

This report is based on statements from emergency responders and witnesses and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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