High school chem experiment goes awry; haz-mat teams called in

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. --  A chemistry experiment at Flagstaff High School produced some unexpected results Monday, and ended in an evacuation.

Around 11:00 a.m. Monday, a Flagstaff High School chemistry class was performing an experiment with 95 percent Ethanol, an alcohol product. That's when an unexpected powder was produced, and taken to be a chemical reaction.

The chemistry teacher immediately evacuated all students from the room, isolated the specific area, and called the Flagstaff Fire Department.

The first arriving engine company determined that none of the students or faculty were experiencing any adverse medical symptoms. They were continually monitored in a safe area and no symptoms arose. Engine 5 established a safe zone outside of the classroom and activated a hazardous materials response.

The FFD Special Operations Hazardous Materials Team responded to the school along with a Battalion Chief, Three Engines and a Rescue. Team members wearing Personal Protective Equipment made entry into the room, monitored the environment, and took samples of the unknown product. The unknown product was then evaluated by research team members and determined to be an inert extinguishing agent.

After thorough investigation, It was determined that the chemical hood system functioned properly, delivering an extinguishing agent. The teacher acted appropriately in evacuating the students and protecting others from harm. School personnel took every precaution to ensure the safety of all their students.

Firefighters say they have concluded with 100 percent confidence that there were no hazardous materials released from this incident.

Dry chemical extinguishing agents are mild upper respiratory irritants. Firefighters counseled the students and again confirmed the reports of no adverse medical reactions from this exposure. The FHS administration has notified the parents of all students regarding this incident.