For the second time in less than a week, a Cal Poly dorm was evacuated Saturday evening when students complained of a burning sensation in their throats.
The cause of the discomfort that prompted the evacuations of Fremont Hall on Saturday and Santa Lucia Hall the previous Sunday is unknown, San Luis Obispo fire Chief Garret Olson said.
Shortly after 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Fremont Hall was evacuated when two women told a resident adviser that they felt a tingling and burning sensation in their throats while walking through the dorm’s second-floor common area. The RA instructed them to pull the fire alarm to evacuate the building, Olson said.
Olson said the two women were symptom-free when he arrived at the scene and watched as they were evaluated by paramedics. None of the other 60 to 75 students who evacuated reported feeling any symptoms, and most left the area, he said. After about 45 minutes, one of the two women said she felt some symptoms returning and went to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center for evaluation.
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“It really looks like she was coming down with a cold,” Olson said.
City firefighters with air monitoring equipment and a Cal Fire hazardous-materials team did two thorough room-by-room inspections of the three-story building and found no dangerous substances or air quality problems, Olson said. Firefighters wore respirators during their first inspection but took them off during the second round to make sure the air was safe before allowing students to return about 8:15 p.m.
Olson said he thought it was unlikely that the cause of the two incidents were connected.
Both incidents occurred about the same time of day, but at Santa Lucia Hall, a number of students reported seeing particulates in the air in addition to feeling burning in their throats and coughing.
At Fremont Hall, only the two women reported feeling any symptoms.
“There was no report of anything seen in the air or any odor,” Olson said. “This one seems as if it’s someone coming down with a cold.”
The university will look at its maintenance and cleaning schedule at both buildings to see whether any work was going on at the time or whether any new chemicals were used that could be a factor in the incidents, Olson said.
Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier confirmed that the maintenance and cleaning work will be reviewed.
Lazier said the university appreciated the students’ cooperation during the evacuations and encouraged them to report any concerns to the housing department staff or university police.
“We will continue to work closely with the fire department to determine possible causes for these incidents,” he said.