RIVERSIDE: Hospital ER lobby evacuated after HazMat emergency

Firefighters exit the hospital’s Emergency Room lobby, while wearing specialized breathing equipment. William Hayes photo

 

Written by Trevor Montgomery with William Hayes

City of Riverside firefighters called out their Hazardous Materials team to determine if the hospital was safe to re-enter. William Hayes photo

City of Riverside firefighters called out their Hazardous Materials team to determine if the hospital was safe to re-enter. William Hayes photo

RIVERSIDE – A man suffering from severe chemical burns to both his arms came into the Emergency Room at the Riverside Community Hospital causing a Hazardous Materials emergency Tuesday, Nov. 29.

The incident forced the evacuation and closure of the hospital’s Emergency Room lobby. The hospital is located at 4445 Magnolia Avenue in Downtown Riverside.

The incident happened just after 7 a.m., and the hospital’s Emergency Room walk-in lobby was closed for about two hours.

The man, who has not been publicly identified, was exposed to “some type of chemical or some process,” according to City of Riverside Fire Department’s Battalion Chief Michael Staley.

City of Riverside Fire and Police Departments were dispatched to the hospital after hospital staff reported the emergency.

Firefighters put on their equipment while preparing to enter the hospital's Emergency Room. William Hayes photo

Firefighters put on their equipment while preparing to enter the hospital’s Emergency Room. William Hayes photo

“Immediately, the hospital removed the patient from the emergency room, took him into their decontamination corridor, de-contaminated him, and then took him into the emergency room to be treated,” Staley reported.

Because the man had entered the Emergency Room lobby and potentially exposed everyone inside the lobby to the chemicals that had burned him, hospital staff and firefighters immediately shut down the entire lobby and cordoned it off.

All the patients who had been inside lobby were immediately brought into the emergency room to be treated, according to Staley.

After they arrived and assessed the situation, City of Riverside Fire officials called out their Hazardous Materials Team to assist with the emergency.

Firefighters head towards the Emergency Room lobby. William Hayes photo

Firefighters head towards the Emergency Room lobby. William Hayes photo

After the Emergency Room lobby was evacuated, Hazardous Material personnel used monitors and detectors to conduct environmental testing and monitoring of the lobby and surrounding area.

During their tests, Hazardous Materials members wearing specialized breathing equipment found no fumes or smells that could potentially sicken patients coming into the lobby.

After the conclusion of their tests, the hospital’s lobby was re-opened and allowed to continue normal operations.

The chemical fumes did not affect any other victims, other than the initial person who came in with the burns.

The burn victim who caused the HazMat emergency was transferred to a local burn unit for treatment. William Hayes photo

The burn victim who caused the HazMat emergency was transferred to a local burn unit for treatment. William Hayes photo

During the incident City of Riverside police officers were seen interviewing both the initial burn patient as well as an unidentified man who had reportedly brought the victim to the hospital. Their investigation into the incident is active and ongoing.

Officials have stated they suspect the substance that burned the victim was butane; however, they have not yet made a positive identification of the substance.

Butane is a chemical commonly used in the process for making Butane Hash Oil (BHO), also known as Honey Oil.

Police and fire officials have determined that making Butane Hash Oil can be very dangerous, as butane is colorless, odorless, flammable, and explosive. Because butane is heavier than air it tends to pool in low areas, such as near the ground. If exposed to an ignition source, an explosion and fire can occur.

The man who was burned was eventually transferred from RCH to a local burn unit for further evaluation and treatment.

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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Trevor Montgomery spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including the Robert Presley Detention Center, the Southwest Station in Temecula, the Hemet Station, and the Lake Elsinore Station, along with many other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, Personnel and Background Investigations and he finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator.

Trevor has been married for more than 26 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 12 – soon to be 13 – grandchildren.

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