Chemical Incident Forces Evacuation

A mystery hazardous substance sparked a full evacuation of a block of flats in Eastbourne on the evening of the 1st September.

It was treated as a chemical incident and a forced entry had to be made into three of the flats.

Two crews from Eastbourne were called out at 18.22 to Eversfield Road, Upperton, following reports of chemical vapour in the three-storey property and they were there for more than three hours. One family with a small baby left the building after noticing a strange smell.

East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service also sent two Hazardous Materials & Environmental Protection Officers, after reports of two people choking. The mystery substance appeared to be affecting the eyes and the back of the throat, making it difficult to breathe. As a precaution, a decontamination unit was set-up at the scene by crews.

A full search of the building was carried out by firefighters wearing breathing apparatus.

Watch Manager Fleur Wilks was at the scene: “There were fumes in the flat when we arrived and an occupant was overcome with an unknown substance. A member of the ambulance crew also suffered a reaction to the substance.”

“I had two firefighters in breathing apparatus and protective gloves searching the flats and they went through with a fine tooth comb. We checked everything, including cleaning products that may have fallen over and mixed to create a dangerous gas but there was absolutely nothing. In the end we ventilated the building and gave advice to the occupants to be vigilant overnight.”

“If it had been just one person we could have put it down to something different but the fact that the ambulance crew suffered is bizarre. What is unusual is that there were no signs of foul play or any accident.”

“We would like to remind the public to make sure that they store any cleaning products upright and have lids on, and not to mix cleaning products and to report any unusual smells”.

No-one was taken to hospital or suffered any serious injuries.