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Freon leak forces store evacuation
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A broken Freon line caused an evacuation of customers and employees at a Turlock grocery store Friday morning.

The Safeway grocery store at 3051 Countryside Drive was closed down for about three hours Friday while crews from the Turlock Fire Department and the Stanislaus County Department of Environmental Resources worked to stop the leak.

No injuries were reported from the incident.

The leak was first reported around 7:50 a.m. Friday by the vendor who accidentally broke the line while restocking product inside a cooler.

“Freon gas is colorless, non-flammable, and relatively odorless,” said Turlock Fire Chief Robert Talloni. “At room temperature Freon is four times heavier than air and sinks to the floor when a leak occurs. The concerns were for the shoppers, store employees, and firefighters entering the building. Leaking Freon displaces oxygen in a room and could cause dizziness, and at the extreme, suffocation at high concentrations.”

Recognizing the potential danger, the vendor and the store manager worked together to get all the customers and employees out of the building.

Working with the Department of Environmental Resources, the Turlock firefighters entered the store wearing breathing apparatus and were able to access the extent of the leak and verify that everyone had been evacuated, said Turlock Fire Battalion Chief Bill Becker.

The store’s refrigeration technician, who happened to be working at another location close by, was able to quickly respond to the scene and assisted with slowing and eventually stopping the leak, Becker said.

Once the leak was stopped the store was ventilated and reopened to the public at 10:55 a.m. Friday.

“Battalion Chief Bill Becker operating as Incident Commander and Turlock firefighters brought about a successful conclusion to a potentially serious situation,” Talloni said.