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EPFD HazMat team responds to ammonia leak inside south-central ice company

The El Paso Fire Department confirmed an ammonia leak at Reddy Ice Company evacuated dozens of employees of a nearby baking company late Tuesday night.

There were no employees inside Reddy Ice, located at1621 Texas Avenue.

Employees of Flowers Baking Company of El Paso, located at301 S. Dallas Street, were in the middle of their shift when they smelled a strong odor of ammonia.

They called 911 and 41 employees evacuated the building around11:00 p.m., said EPFD spokesman Carlos Briano.

No one had to be hospitalized.

The EPPD Hazmat team arrived and prepared to enter Reddy Ice in white hazmat suits.

At about 1:49 a.m. firefighters managed to shut off all six ammonia valves and exited the building to be decontaminated.

A second hazmat team entered the building to detect ammonia levels several times overnight.

“These hazmat incidents are a slow operation. Safety is of the utmost importance, so we are not going to rush the operation. We are going to take our time to make sure everything is safe,” said Carlos Briano, spokesman for the El Paso Fire Department.

At approximately5:07 a.m., employees of Flowers Baking Co. were allowed back inside.

Flowers Baking President Larry Baldwin was in Albuquerque on business when he was informed of the incident. He drove to El Paso overnight and arrived while crews were still at the scene. He told ABC-7 he was relieved to learn his 41 employees were okay.

Flowers Baking produces Sunbeam and Nature’s Own bread products inside the factory.

Baldwin said he was “very proud” of his employees for reacting so quickly. He added the employees have an evacuation plan in case of emergency.

Briano said it’s important all businesses have a plan in place when employees encounter unknown chemicals.

“They should evacuate, call 911. It’s a very dangerous (ammonia) substance.”

The fire department cleared the scene at about 6 a.m. Officials did not say how soon employees arriving to work at Reddy Ice would be able to go inside or if it would be closed for the day.

As for the bread produced at Flowers Baking, Baldwin said it would be discarded for safety.

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