WOLFEBORO — No one was injured but two wings of a local nursing home were temporarily evacuated after fumes from a minor cleaning chemical spill caused eye and throat irritation to about a dozen residents and staff members.
The Wolfeboro Fire-Rescue Department was alerted to a strange smell at the Wolfeboro Bay Care and Rehabilitation Center at 39 Clipper Drive at 2:35 p.m., on Wednesday, where the first arriving crews found the facility staff had started immediate action to maintain the safety of the residents and staff.
Deputy Fire Chief Tom Zotti said residents of the Granite and Kingswood wings were moved to the Village Green dining and lounge area, where residents stayed calm and sang Christmas carols before staff got the go-ahead to start serving dinner later that afternoon.
Zotti said symptoms of the chemical spill included irritation to the eyes and throat. The culprit chemical turned out to be Aqua Guard Tile and Spa Cleaner, an acidic substance used to de-scale and take mineral deposits off spas and bathtubs, Zotti said.
The symptoms listed on the chemical’s MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) corresponded to what the staff and residents were experiencing. A small amount of the chemical, under a gallon, apparently spilled in the utility/storage closet on the first floor of the home, and because the fan inside the closet used to control odors was not working properly, the chemical odor permeated the immediate area.
“Once we narrowed it down, it was fairly simple to clean up,” said Zotti, crediting the Carroll County Hazardous Materials Team for its work in pinning down the source of the irritant and for cleaning up.
The incident was declared under control and residents were allowed to return to their rooms at 5:43 p.m.Zotti credited the staff for launching its internal emergency management plan and taking immediate precautions. He said in the event the residents had to be evacuated from the building, staff was prepared to move them to other nursing facilities. The Wolfeboro Bay Center is owned by Genesis HealthCare, a company with five facilities in New Hampshire.
Wolfeboro Fire-Rescue was assisted at the scene by Stewarts Ambulance, with technical assistance provided by N.H. State Fire Marshal’s Office Hazardous Materials Coordinator Les Cartier. Tuftonboro Fire-Rescue provided station coverage for Wolfeboro.
“This was a prime example of the benefits of planning and coordination between multiple responding agencies and the Wolfeboro Bay Center staff,” said Zotti. “Facility staff immediately recognized a problem and began using the facility’s emergency plan. Technical assistance from the Carroll County Hazardous Materials Team and the N.H. Fire Marshal’s Office was superb. All this resulted in the best possible outcome for the residents."