Hazmat units respond to dangerous gas mixture, family evacuated from home


DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune Madera fire crews and a Hazardous Material unit from Merced responded to a dangerous chlorine gas exposure incident after a resident in the 100 block of north Q Street mixed drain cleaner and other household chemicals in an attempt to clear a clogged bathroom drain. The resident was initially overcome by the fumes, but was not injured.

A homeowner attempting to unclog a bathroom drain mixed drain cleaner with bleach in the 100 block of North Q Street and was overcome with dangerous and potentially deadly fumes, according to the CalFire authorities.

Battalion Fire Chief Anthony Garcia said the initial call at 10 a.m. Saturday morning was for a medical aid for a person with respiratory distress, but fire personnel quickly identified the strong smell of chlorine gas and the danger inside the home.

Garcia said once the situation was identified as hazardous the four residents were quickly evacuated from the house, along with their small dog, and birds.

“About 20 fire personnel responded and they made two different entries (in full Hazmat breathing gear) into the house to locate the source of the odor, which had now spread and become a heavy chlorine gas.”

Garcia said opening the windows wasn’t enough because as the gas sinks ... (it) stays at floor level for some time.

“We used our monitors to detect it and ventilation fans at ground level to help dissipate and clear the chlorine gas out of the home,” he said.

The combinations of the two household chemicals was very dangerous, Garcia said, and had the potential to cause lung damage or even death, and he cautioned residents to read labels and never mix any household chemicals such as bleach or drain cleaners which contain sulfuric acid in any situations — especially indoors.

No injuries were reported and no physical damage was found at the incident. The specialized Merced Hazmat fire unit responded to set up and supervise the decontamination of the site and assist firefighters at the scene. One fire engine from the city, one from the county and the Central California Women’s Facility also worked the incident. City of Madera Public Works employees were also called to the scene to test for chlorine gas in the immediate area in the sewer system. North Q Street was closed off for about four hours during the incident.

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