Hazardous material call ties up Fort Street for hours

'I heard them mention hazardous suits. That didn't sound good:' hotel tenant

A firefighter in protective gear stands outside of 710 Fort Street as other workers unrolling plastic tarps are reflected in the door glass.



Two odourless liquid chemicals found in a sink inside a suite in the Ritz Hotel prompted Victoria firefighters to evacuate the premises, shut down a section of Fort Street and prevent workers from returning to nearby businesses Monday.

“The (hotel) manager called reporting that a substance was left by a disgruntled former occupant of the hotel,” acting fire chief Oscar Pohl, with the Victoria Fire Department, said outside the five-storey hotel at 710 Fort St.

The manager had gone into suite 325 on the third floor around 10 a.m., and when he tried cleaning a sink, his eyes started to burn and water, and his breathing was affected.

When contacted, the former tenant, who had been evicted and was said to have mental health issues, refused to identify the chemical substances.

The manager didn’t call Victoria firefighters until 1:45 p.m. Minutes after their arrival, they called in the Capital Regional District’s Hazardous Response Unit.

Dozens of firefighters belonging to the regional team raced in from across the region, including Sooke, Metchosin, View Royal, Oak Bay, Saanich and Esquimalt. A massive incident command truck and trailer, laden with supplies, arrived from Central Saanich.

“It could be totally harmless but you can’t take any chances,” said Victoria firefighter Ross Isherwood, one of the first emergency personnel to attend the scene.

Fort Street between Douglas and Blanshard streets was closed for several hours.

The hotel, which has 100 units, was eventually evacuated and tenants were sheltered in parked B.C. Transit buses.

Just after 5 p.m. a crowd of spectators drew as close as they were allowed to watch and photograph the team dress in air tanks and full-body hazmat suits.

Just after Victoria fire crews arrived, residents of the hotel had begun to trickle out, confused by the sight of emergency personnel and their vehicles lining the street.

“I woke up and came out of my room and all of a sudden a whole bunch of officers are there,” said one third-floor resident who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I heard them mention hazardous suits. That didn’t sound good.”

Though the chemical substances were not immediately identified, the hotel’s manager was said to be fine.

emccracken@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Salmon fishing closures won’t save the whales, say critics

Federal government accused of going after salmon fishery as ‘low hanging fruit’

Unrelated occupancy limits creating divisions in Saanich

Gordon Head Residents’ Association wants to see conditions to hold landlords accountable

Oak Bay cyclist runner-up in Spanish stage race

Adam de Vos on podium amongst World Tour best in Spain

Greater Victoria has Canada’s sixth-highest ‘moving penalty’

Disparity between vacant/occupied units incentivizes renovictions and reduces mobility, researcher says

Teams finalized in last push before Pan Am Cross Country Championships

The competition is taking place at Bear Mountain Resort in Langford on Feb. 29

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Nanaimo high school under lockdown after threats

Nanaimo RCMP say McGirr Elementary in hold-and-secure given proximity

Wolverines face elimination game at Island finals

Sooke squad lost to Nanaimo’s John Barsby last night

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

RCMP clarifies stance on removing officers from Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Police say will remove officers only if hereditary chiefs keep road open to pipeline workers

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Suspect at large after stealing seaplane before crashing into another in Vancouver

Police responded to the incident at 3:30 a.m. on Friday at Vancouver Harbour

Most Read