Thursday, just after 12 noon, Kern County firefighters were dispatched to a reported chemical leak at 3800 Rosedale Highway. The facility with the reported emergency was a Costco Wholesale. Upon arrival, firefighters found that evacuations were already underway as per Costco safety protocols. Costco management on scene explained that a refrigerant leak alarm had gone off, senior Costco management personnel had investigated, confirmed an active leak of an unknown chemical, and began evacuations. Firefighters started to assist, and within approximately 20 minutes from the start of evacuations, 109 employees and an estimated 450 customers were safely evacuated without incident.
Kern County firefighters, trained as Hazardous Materials team members, developed a plan to safely make entry into the hazardous area and identify the source of the leak. While using a live video feed, firefighters wearing self contained breathing apparatus found the leak and were directed by Branden Lowrie, a Journeyman Refrigeration Technician with A&J Refrigeration, through the proper steps to safely stop the leak. Once the leak was stopped, fans were setup to ventilate the area. When air monitors confirmed a hazardous atmosphere no longer existed the facility was turned back over to Costco personnel.