Streamwood Firefighters, Area Hazmat Techs Work to Resolve Ammonia Leak at Fresh Express on Lake Street — 7 Transported to Hospital

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Streamwood police and firefighter/paramedics responded about 11:34 PM Monday to a report of an Activated Fire Alarm on the board at NWCDS for the Fresh Express commercial building, 1109 East Lake Street Streamwood, Il. Report of an Activated Fire Alarm on the alarm board at Northwest Central Dispatch System 9-1-1 Center for the Fresh Express commercial building in Streamwood.

All employees were evacuated before firefighters arrived, but several complained of breathing difficulty, according to fire officials. Five employees were transported to St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. Two firefighters were exposed to ammonia and were also transported to the hospital for treatment. Firefighters wearing protective suits and equipment were decontaminated upon exit from the building.

As of 7:25 a.m. Tuesday the building was not yet determined to be safe to enter by people not wearing personal protective equipment. Hazmat technicians were monitoring air quality for the complete building while ventilating the building using multiple fire department Mobile Ventilation Units as far as Chicago Fire Department and from Rockford area fire departments.

Streamwood firefighters also responded about 12:35 a.m. Tuesday to a second, unrelated incident — a working fire — at 712 Bonded Parkway for a fire at the rear of a custom sheet metal shop, Progress Dynamics. The fire was extinguished in a short time.

Seven people were transported to St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates — possibly as a result of, or related to — exposure to an ammonia leak at Fresh Express — salad packaging plant.

Ammonia, as a hazardous material leak, is considered a high health hazard (posing a risk to health and life) because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs.

Fresh Express is a Division of Chiquita Brands.

Fresh Express makes packaged, ready-to-eat salad products.

More than 700 employees are employed at the location.

Fresh Express has operated at the Streamwood location since 2013.

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Engine 31’s crew on arrival reported nothing showing from the outside of the building.

Streamwood Battalion Chief 9 reported a possible ammonia leak and requested two additional ambulances.

Battalion Chief 9 reported they have learned that a forklift might have hit an ammonia line inside the building.

A Hazmat Level 2 was activated and a total of a six-ambulance response was activated at the scene after two additional ambulances requested about 12:38 a.m.

All on duty Division 1 hazmat techs were due to the scene.

Fire command was using a MABAS DIVISION 1 Change of Quarters on BOX #4 for the ammonia leak for ambulances.

A canteen requested.

A Mobile Ventilation Unit (MVU-1 stationed at Elk Grove Village) was requested at 1:05 a.m. Additional mobile ventilation units were requested about 6:45 a.m. as firefighters worked overnight and early morning trying to bring down ammonia levels.

Mobile Ventilation Units from MABAS Division 27 (Chicago Heights, Park Forest area), MABAS Division 8 (Rockford area), and MABAS Division 9 (Chicago Fire Department) were being requested to the scene.

A large area of the salad packaging warehouse on Lake Street near Walnut is refrigerated

According to the Department of Labor’s Occupation Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), Ammonia is considered a high health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Exposure to 300 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health. If the possibility of exposure above 300 ppm exists, firefighters use MSHA/NIOSH approved self-contained breathing apparatus with a full facepiece operated in a pressure-demand or other positive-pressure mode. Ammonia is also flammable at concentrations of approximately 15 to 28% by volume in air. When mixed with lubricating oils, its flammable concentration range is increased. It can explode if released in an enclosed space with a source of ignition present, or if a vessel containing anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire.




SQUAD(S): Hazmat 31

EMS: A33 Hanover Park M15





HAZMAT LEVEL 1 at 00:02


SQUAD(S): Elk Grove Hazmat 8

EMS: A ??



SQUAD(S): Palatine SQD85 with 3 Techs

RIT: BC ?? T ??


EMS: East Dundee Ambulance

LIVE TRAFFIC MAP of neighborhood Report of an Activated Fire Alarm on the board at NWCDS for the Fresh Express commercial building. 1109 East Lake Street Streamwood, Il …

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OSHA First Aid for Ammonia Exposure

Decontaminate the victim as quickly as possible. Start with the eyes. The whole body, or exposed area, must be flushed with generous amounts of water; this includes the hair, ears, under the chin, and armpits. Water sources such as showers, hoses, eye wash stations, or stock tanks are acceptable.

Ensure trained personnel and adequate first aid supplies are readily available [29 CFR 1910.151(b)]

Contact with the Eyes

Even if only a small amount of ammonia enters the eyes, irrigate the eyes with an abundance of water for a minimum of 15 minutes. Continually and thoroughly flush the entire eye surface and the inner lining of the eyelids. Eyes affected by ammonia close involuntarily, so the eyelids must be held open so that water can flush the entire eye surface, as well as the inner lining of the eyelid.

If there is no physician available, continue irrigation for an additional 15 minutes.

Do not wear contact lenses when handling anhydrous ammonia. If ammonia gets in the eyes, the ammonia will get trapped under the lenses causing even more damage. They may also prevent immediate flushing of the eye surface.

Serious eye injury should be treated by an ophthalmologist, but in an emergency, wash with large quantities of water for 15 minutes or more as quickly as possible. In fact, the only real hope for preventing permanent eye injury lies in quick and generous washing.

One suggestion for those likely to be exposed is to carry a small, eight-ounce squeezable squirt bottle filled with water, which can be used to get excess ammonia out of the eyes until a larger water supply can be reached. This small amount of water is not sufficient to remove all the ammonia. It is essential that the eyes be irrigated for a minimum of 15 minutes as soon as possible.

Another emergency method is to duck the head in water and rapidly blink and move or rotate the eyes about.

Contact with the Skin

It is essential that any ammonia spilled on the worker be removed immediately and that the worker be moved to an uncontaminated area quickly.

Clothes that have been saturated by liquid ammonia may freeze to the skin. In any case, the victim, still clothed, should get immediately under a shower, if available, or jump into a stock tank, pond, or into any other source of water. Time is important! Remove clothes only after they are thawed and they can be freely removed from frozen areas. If the clothing is removed incorrectly, whole sections of skin can be torn off.

No salves, creams, ointments, or jellies should be applied to the skin during a 24-hour period following the injury since this will prevent natural elimination of the ammonia from the skin. After the 24 hour period, the medical treatment is the same for thermal burns. A physician should view any second- or third-degree freeze burns of the skin.

Taken Internally

This is what you should do if ammonia is ingested:

Call a physician.

If conscious, have the victim drink large amounts of water.

Do not induce vomiting if the victim is in shock, in extreme pain, or is unconscious.

If vomiting begins, place the victims face down with head lower than hips. This prevents vomit from entering the lungs and prevents severe injury.


In all inhalation exposures, severe or minimal:

Take the exposed workers at once to a clean, uncontaminated area.

Watch workers exposed to low concentrations for a short period of time. They will usually require no treatment and can be released.

For severe exposure to higher concentrations:

Call a physician.

Administer oxygen by an individual who is trained and authorized to do so by a physician. This will help relieve pain and symptoms of lack of oxygen.

Begin artificial respiration immediately if the patient is not breathing.

Keep victim warm (but not hot) and rested until transported to the hospital.


In any accident involving contact with ammonia with the eyes or skin:

Immediately flush the affected area with large quantities of clean water.

Place the injured person into a container of clean water or under an emergency shower.

Provide the injured worker with first aid treatment and call a physician at once in the case of extreme exposure. Give the physician a complete account of the incident.

Seconds count, wash the ammonia away with water immediately.

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