Fire at Kadena HAZMAT Facility Releases Chlorine Gas, Affecting Dozens

OKINAWA, Japan—About 45 people experienced symptoms of smoke and chlorine gas exposure June 22 at Kadena Air Base, after a fire at the 18th Wing Hazardous Materials Pharmacy sent hazardous particles and plumes of smoke billowing into the air.

Most of the individuals had mild symptoms and were treated and returned to duty, according to a base press release. 

The fire began shortly before 9 a.m. at the HAZMAT building, which is in the central part of the base, south of the airfield. Emergency services responded and contained the fire by 10 a.m., though a shelter-in-place order for some areas and evacuation orders for others were issued and distributed via the base’s phone app. 

Phone screenshot courtesy of Jennifer Hlad

The base medical clinic also canceled all routine appointments, while urging anyone with eye irritation, runny nose, or throat irritation to report to the medical group and anyone with shortness of breath or coughing to go to the emergency room.

“The fire on base has released chlorine gas particles,” a Facebook post announced. “If traveling by [privately owned vehicle], keep windows closed and the air conditioning off.”

Inbox via KadenaPosted by Air Force amn/nco/snco on Sunday, June 21, 2020

Firefighters extinguished the fire around 2 p.m., and the evacuation orders for the area were lifted. 

Base officials said they do not know what caused the fire, but that “bioenvioronmental personnel” and emergency responders were continuing to monitor the site to make sure there was no additional safety risk.