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UPDATED: Ammonia-like fumes cause Nelson hotel evacuation

Clean up crews were on Ward Street Wednesday afternoon after an apparent ammonia spill that forced the evacuation of the Hume Hotel. - Kevin Mills photo
Clean up crews were on Ward Street Wednesday afternoon after an apparent ammonia spill that forced the evacuation of the Hume Hotel.
— image credit: Kevin Mills photo

Nelson's Hume Hotel was evacuated around 11:30 this morning after a "rush of heavy ammonia smell."

Fire chief Simon Grypma says his crews responded to a report of an unknown substance leaking in the lane behind the hotel. Upon arriving it was determined the vapor was escaping from a damaged cylinder in the back of a pick-up truck. The cylinder had been removed from the basement of the Redfish Grill, the Baker Street building that has been recently undergoing clean-up and repairs following a 2010 fire.

The truck's operator was told to take the cylinder to an area away from people and let it finish venting, Grypma said.

Hume Hotel General manager Ryan Martin told the Star their HVAC unit sucked some of the fumes into the hotel.

"It was very potent, very strong," Martin said. "We initially didn't know where it was coming from so we pulled the fire alarm and evacuated the hotel. We opened all the doors and had people wait outside for the air to clear."

Martin said Nelson police chief Wayne Holland happened to be at the hotel for lunch. Paramedics also responded and Ward Street was blocked off between Baker and Vernon. Public works crews spread sand on the street and helped clean up the chemical product on the ground.

The smell dissipated and the hotel reopened within about an hour, but two workers on the Redfish clean-up went to hospital for decontamination and evaluation along with four Hume employees.

"The staff in the lower kitchen probably got the worst of it," Martin said. "Any staff feeling symptoms have gone home, but the majority of us didn't get it as bad."

Martin said the fire department, paramedics, and Hume staff did a good job of dealing with the situation. "You can never fully prepare for things like that."

Grypma said the incident serves as a reminder that anyone who finds items that may be hazardous should contact the fire department before dismantling or moving them.

WorkSafeBC is investigating the incident.

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