Three people went to hospital Monday morning after being exposed to noxious fumes emanating from the basement of a Vernon St. home at the apex of the Cedar St. hill.
“We believe there’s nitric acid on the premises,” fire chief Len MacCharles told the Star on scene, while firefighters suited up in bright yellow hazmat suits.
The co-owner of the house discovered the chemical while cleaning but was not the one who was using it.
Police ensured everyone was out of the house and upwind of the chemicals by the time fire crews responded. Once it was determined that nitric acid, which is both explosive and corrosive, was potentially the source of the vapours, two additional firefighters were called to the scene and Nelson Hydro crews cut power to the home.
MacCharles said they took all necessary precautions before entering to remove the product. Inside they found a number of unlabeled containers, all with clear fluids inside, which were taken away for proper disposal.
“We haven’t evacuated around the building. We’ve informed individuals of what’s going on, but if there is any [material] it will disperse in the air. I don’t believe it’s a large quantity,” he said. “The owner will be going back in after we eliminate the product and ventilate [the home].”
He said the public was never at risk. By 3 p.m., the area around the house was re-opened to pedestrians.
Nelson police Sgt. Dino Falcone said Tuesday the owner has been allowed back in, but firefighters still had control of the scene and police can’t enter until they have clearance.
“We believe some copper wire was taken from the residence — wire used in normal household electrical,” he said. “We think [former tenants] used acid to take off the coating or insulation of copper wire and left with it.”
Falcone says a criminal investigation is underway, but while they have an idea who the previous tenants were, they haven’t yet been able to locate them. “It’s hard to pinpoint who was there,” he said. “We’re not 100 per cent sure.”