On Monday, September 17, 1984, at approximately 4:00 p.m., an explosion occurred in a cold storage warehouse building near Shreveport, Louisiana. The explosion occurred while two members of the Shreveport Fire Department's Hazardous Material Unit were attempting to isolate an anhydrous ammonia leak in a section of the building's refrigeration system. Employees had earlier detected the leak and workers had begun repairs earlier in the day, but were unable to complete the repair due to the effects of the ammonia.
The force of the explosion raised the building's roof/ceiling assembly in the immediate area of the leak approximately one foot and severely damaged interior wall assemblies. The initial explosion also resulted in a severe fire from the ignition of ordinary combustibles in the adjacent areas of the building. The two fire fighters within the room of origin were severely burned when their protective clothing became ignited. One fire fighter died within 36 hours of the explosion; the other fire fighter was admitted to a hospital in critical condition.
Based on the investigative study, the following are considered to be major contributing factors to the loss of life in this incident:
• The ignition of a flammable mixture of anhydrous ammonia gas during the
emergency scene operation,
• The lack of proper precautions by workers to reduce the possibility of a hazardous
accumulation of ammonia gas, and
• The lack of awareness by fire fighters that the conditions for a hazardous accumulation of
flammable anhydrous ammonia gas were present.