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UPDATE: Pittsfield Walmart reopens after Freon gas leak forces evacuation, shutdown

PITTSFIELD — The Walmart store in Berkshire Crossing was evacuated early Monday after an employee accidentally damaged a cooling line in a refrigeration unit, spewing Freon gas throughout the store, according to a report from the Pittsfield Fire Department.

The incident, around 5:15 a.m., prompted a “Tier 1” activation of the Massachusetts State Hazardous Materials team, which responded along with fire department personnel.

The team isolated and shut down the system and ventilated the building, the report said. There were no reported injuries.

"It's very challenging to evacuate all of the Freon out of the building," Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Garner said.

The store was closed for several hours, reopening in the afternoon.

Freon is a tasteless, mostly odorless gas. When it is deeply inhaled, it can cut off vital oxygen to cells and lungs. The gas can also make a large impact on a person’s air and health.

Refrigerant poisoning is a serious condition that can lead to difficulty breathing, headaches, nausea and vomiting, skin and eye irritation, and coughing.

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