Charges unlikely after hazmat scare in downtown Victoria

Chemicals discovered prove to be household products, but crews didn;t want to take chances, fire chief says

The former tenant of a downtown Victoria hotel, where a non-hazardous cocktail of liquid chemicals was left in a suite on Monday, won’t face criminal charges, says Victoria’s fire chief.

Though it’s not clear what chemicals were poured into the sink of a room on the third floor of the Ritz Hotel, Victoria Fire Chief Jeff Lambert said, “It’s just bizarre, some of the stuff. We ran all our tests on it and everything came back negative.”

The manager of the hotel, at 710 Fort St., went in around 10 a.m. to clean the room, which had been vacated by the evicted tenant.

While attempting to wipe up the chemical brew, the man’s nose and throat became irritated.

Victoria firefighters responded to the scene around 1:45 p.m., then called in the Capital Regional District Hazardous Materials Response Unit.

When police officers questioned the former tenant about the substance, “he gave them the information that led us to believe that it was not just a normal situation, and that the potential could be a lot worse,” Lambert said. “So that’s how we treated it. He said enough to really make us unsure about what we were getting into.”

The man was taken to hospital for a mental health assessment. It’s unlikely that he will be charged in connection with the incident, the fire chief said.

As firefighters raced in from across the region to put their hazmat training to work, Fort Street between Douglas and Blanshard Streets was closed to traffic.

The Victoria Emergency Management Agency evacuated the 100-unit hotel and tenants were sheltered for about two hours on B.C. Transit buses parked nearby.

Hazmat technicians suited up, entered the hotel room and tested the chemicals. After the all clear was given Fort Street was opened and tenants allowed to return to their rooms around 5:30 p.m.

Though the substance proved to be non-hazardous, the hotel manager was right to call emergency personnel.

“The one thing that I’m reading and listening to a lot (in the media) is, ‘Oh, it was only household stuff,’” Lambert said.

“The reality of it is, I can take chlorine bleach (for example) and mix it with a lot of other stuff, and it is not just household stuff anymore.”

“We have these (hazmat services) because people don’t understand that,” he said. “You pull your bathroom cleaners out and mix those puppies together – it could gas you.”

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