Three dead confirmed in arena ammonia leak

An ammonia leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena has caused evacuations in downtown Fernie

At least three people have died after an ammonia leak at a hockey arena in Fernie, B.C. that forced an evacuation of the surrounding area Tuesday evening. The agency was contacted by the Fernie Fire Department at 12:30 p.m and there are now three WorkSafe BC officers on site.

The city said the victims' next of kin have been notified, but their names were not released late Tuesday.

Highway 3, which runs behind the arena, remained open to traffic, but several streets were closed: 9th Street and 11th Street from the highway to 6th Avenue and 6th Avenue from 9th to 11th Streets.

Homes and businesses in the area, including a retirement home, have been evacuated.

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Officials have not said if others were inside the facility at the time of the leak. CIMCO Refrigeration is on scene assisting City of Fernie crews and the city is working to acquire additional specialized resources to deal with the hazardous situation.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says ammonia is a colourless gas that is very toxic if inhaled and can cause death.

Ammonia is used a fertilizer, to make plastics, fibres and other chemicals, as a refrigerant and other applications.

Emergency crews were called to the Fernie Memorial Arena located on 6th Avenue, and a hazmat team from a refrigeration company was brought in to help contain the leak. "I've never seen winds like this in Fernie before", Giuliano said.

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