Gas leak empties Juneau grocery store

The sign out front still says Alaskan & Proud, but the new Foodland IGA is now open in the only large-scale grocery space in downtown Juneau. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Capital City Fire/Rescue evacuated Foodland IGA Monday morning in response to a possible carbon monoxide leak.

Assistant Fire Chief Chad Cameron said two U.S. Coast Guard employees were shopping at Foodland when gas meters they happened to be carrying detected high levels of hazardous gas.

They alerted CCFR, who responded around 9:45 a.m. The crew’s detectors showed high levels of carbon monoxide. They evacuated the store and opened all the doors for ventilation.

“We were working with the belief that it was carbon monoxide until we aired out the building and identified the source,” Cameron  said.

They traced it to batteries used for the store’s backup generators. Cameron said the overcharged batteries were actually giving off hydrogen sulfide gas.

“For us, it mimics carbon monoxide on our detectors. That’s how we were able to identify where it was,” Cameron said. “We disconnected the batteries and ventilated the building and cleared out everything.”

Hydrogen sulfide gas is toxic and highly flammable, but Cameron said CCFR is not concerned about anyone’s exposure.

In a social media post, CCFR wrote that symptoms appear quickly and no one has reported any injuries. Cameron said the batteries will be serviced to prevent any more problems.

Foodland store manager Rick Wilson said the evacuation lasted about half an hour and business continued as usual for the rest of the day. He also said the store did not have carbon monoxide detectors when the incident happened, but they do now.

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