20 homes evacuated in gas leak

By Kyabram Free Press

RESIDENTS have praised the actions of emergency services after an ammonia leak from Kyabram Cold Storage triggered a hazardous material alert on Sunday.

Police said toxic ammonia was detected and 20 homes in Crow Crescent and Mellis Street evacuated as a precaution just after 6pm.

Because ammonia can cause respiratory problems extra ambulance crews were put on standby but there were no reported injuries.  

The Kyabram Fire Brigade, a Shepparton Hazmat unit and additional support from Echuca CFA attended and quickly found the source of the leak, which was a failed valve.

Once the breach was identified, a refrigeration technician arrived on scene and was able to turn off the main ammonia compressor.

Crews with breathing apparatus were then able to get to the affected pipework and make the area safe.

Residents were allowed back into their homes at about 9.30pm, and a relief centre was set up at the Wilf Cox Centre on Unwin street in the interim.

“All emergency services worked well together with a well-executed plan of what was required by each agency,” Kyabram Fire Brigade Captain Mick Crompton said.

Crow Crescent resident Stuart Trevena was at home with his eight-month-old baby, Bailey, when he saw a large contingent of emergency service vehicles pull into his street.

“I wandered out to have a look at what was going on and about 15 minutes later there was a knock at the door to tell us we needed to leave,” Mr Trevena said.

He and his partner, Hayley Smith, stayed at a friend's house until they were allowed back on to the property.

“We weren’t sure when we could get back in, and when it would be safe,” Ms Smith said.

“In the end I called the Kyabram police office directly to work out if it was okay.”

Kyabram Senior Constable Shane Roberts said it was a timely reminder for everyone to download and familiarise themselves with the VicEmergency app, which tracks incidents in your area and provides alerts.

“It’s the best tool to stay up to date, and when we spoke to many of the people that were affected they weren’t even aware of it,” he said.

“But overall, we were really pleased with the entire operation and collaboration between services, and very happy with the public’s calm and organised response.

“We are treating this incident as accidental.”

Kyabram Cold Storage site manager Grantley West said they were working hard to understand what caused the leak and stop it from happening again.

“The Kyabram Fire Brigade responded to a call from neighbouring properties and acted very professionally to bring in the appropriate emergency services to investigate and ensure the situation was under control,” he said.  

“Ammonia is a natural refrigerant made up of nitrogen and hydrogen and is the most common and efficient refrigerant used in the refrigeration industry.

“Nitrogen and hydrogen are part of the atmosphere we breathe in daily.

“In the event of a leak it is best to allow it to dissipate into the atmosphere to reduce any risk.

“Kyabram Cold Storage would like to thank all of the services that were involved on Sunday and acknowledge any inconvenience caused to the neighbouring properties.”