Ship full of freon on fire: shelter-in-place order for freon release and smoke near Seattle
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A fishing vessel named Kodiak Enterprise caught fire while moored in the Hylebos Waterway of Tacoma, Washington on Saturday April 8. 19,000 pounds of freon is thought to have been released into the atmosphere.
According to an article on ABCNews, The ship was carrying diesel and freon, and the fire progressed to about 100 feet (30 meters) from the boat's freon tanks. The Coast Guard issued a temporary shelter-in-place for some areas near Tacoma, which is a US city near Seattle.
The massive fire on the 276-foot fishing vessel started at around 3:30 a.m. Saturday April 8, while the ship was moored at in the Hylebos Waterway, according to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The response to the fire lasted several days.
The fire department was asking residents to remain indoors and limit exposure to smoke. The cause of the fire is under investigation, as the Tacoma Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard, EPA, and the Washington Department and Ecology were responding to the incident.
Freon can be toxic if inhaled "in large quantities or in a confined space," the Coast Guard said, but the release of freon in the atmosphere did not pose any risks to the general health and safety of the public.
"Residents concerned about smoky conditions can provide additional protections by keeping doors closed and shutting outside air vents," Jim Ferrell, mayor of neighboring city, Federal Way, told residents living in the Twin Lakes and Green Gables neighborhoods on Twitter. "Residents may also want to avoid any strenuous activity or exercise outdoors."
Slow release of freon - potential damage to the ozone layer
According to an article on Kiro7.com, the ship was carrying 19,000 pounds / 8500 kilograms of freon. According to the article, the Coastguard said the freon was "no longer" in the holding tanks of the ship. First responders on the scene allegedly believe the freon had been slowly released during the fire.
Freon is an environmentally damaging type of gas when released into the atmosphere. It is a trademarked, brand name chemical used to refer to several different products used in refrigeration. The chemicals “eventually reach the stratosphere where they deplete the stratospheric ozone layer,” according to the E.P.A.
Five day response
“Responders believe the freon was slowly released during the fire,” the U.S. Coast Guard stated on Tuesday night, April 11.
The U.S. Coast Guard added, “Responders have verified that there is no longer freon in the tanks aboard the vessel. The tanks are designed to release pressure in an emergency. Responders believe the freon was slowly released during the fire. The release of freon into the atmosphere is not expected to pose any health and safety risks to the public.”
On Wednesday morning, April 12, crews continued cooling the exterior of the vessel. It was then the fifth day for first responders, who’ve been at the scene since the fire broke early Saturday.
Smoke rising from the fire on the Kodiak Enterprise in Tacoma, Washington, in a photo released by the Washington Department of Ecology on April 8, 2023.