Heating issue leads to Walgreens evacuation in Turners Falls

Staff and other occupants of Walgreens on Avenue A in Turners Falls stand outside as the Turners Falls Fire Department investigates reports of a thick haze inside the building on Tuesday afternoon.

Staff and other occupants of Walgreens on Avenue A in Turners Falls stand outside as the Turners Falls Fire Department investigates reports of a thick haze inside the building on Tuesday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

The Turners Falls Fire Department used fans to help clear out a thick haze inside Walgreens on Avenue A in Turners Falls on Tuesday afternoon.

The Turners Falls Fire Department used fans to help clear out a thick haze inside Walgreens on Avenue A in Turners Falls on Tuesday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

The Turners Falls Fire Department investigates reports of a thick haze at Walgreens on Avenue A in Turners Falls on Tuesday afternoon.

The Turners Falls Fire Department investigates reports of a thick haze at Walgreens on Avenue A in Turners Falls on Tuesday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 10-25-2023 11:12 AM

TURNERS FALLS — No one was harmed after a problem with the heating unit filled Walgreens on Avenue A with a thick haze and forced the store’s evacuation on Tuesday afternoon, according to Deputy Fire Chief Kyle Cogswell.

The Fire Department was dispatched at around 4 p.m. after a Walgreens staff member reported a thick haze filling the store, Cogswell said. Upon arrival, responders evacuated the building as a precaution. When they entered, they observed a haze with “almost a chalky consistency.”

Shortly after, firefighters deployed a ladder truck to access the roof and inspect the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units. According to Cogswell, they confirmed two units were in need of repair, and that one unit’s fault caused its liquid refrigerant contents to aerosolize and spread throughout the store.

Cogswell reported that no one was harmed, to the department’s knowledge.

“It is, for the most part, non-hazardous, but there is a concern … because it could cause breathing problems for folks who are sensitive to that,” he explained.

The department stopped the leak by shutting down electrical breakers that are connected to the two involved HVAC units. Firefighters also set up fans by the store’s entryway to help clear out any lingering haze and odor.

Store staff and other occupants were allowed back into the building shortly after 5 p.m. Cogswell said the business could operate as usual thereafter, noting that it did not commit any code violations. Staff also hoped to have a technician come by and fix the units within 24 hours.

Similar issues are relatively common, Cogswell said, encouraging the public to have technicians inspect their buildings regularly.

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Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.