A possible hazardous materials incident at a site in downtown Victoria halted construction temporarily Thursday afternoon.
Emergency crews including fire and paramedics responded to the 1400-block of Quadra Street at roughly 12:30 p.m. for a medical aid call.
The area is currently the site of a new 14-storey residential building, replacing Island Rent-a-car.
Acting Battalion Chief John Mokosak said in a press huddle that dozens of workers reported symptoms from an unknown source.
“People were coming down with symptoms of burning nose, burning throat.” Mokosak said.
“We raised to a second alarm and brought in more staff and evacuated the building.”
Police closed the intersection at Quadra and Johnson while fire crews performed a sweep of the building with gas detectors.
Mokosak up to 29 people were experiencing symptoms including irritated airways and nostrils. Workers on multiple floors were affected, but mostly in the basement and second-floor areas.
Once paramedics triaged the affected individuals outdoors, Mokosak said all the workers were cleared medically and seemed in good health in the fresh air.
Meanwhile, CRD Hazmat teams arrived and performed a second, more intensive sweep of the construction site, but could not find any issues.
Mokosak said at this point — just before 2:30 p.m. — teams called an all-clear and workers were permitted back into the building.
Some workers were sent home due to the prolonged site shutdown, but none had to be treated further for medical issues.
Mokosak said it’s not yet known what caused the issues, and unfortunately, it may remain unknown.
“One person said pepper spray, one person said something else,” he said.
“It’s all what that person at that time thinks they smell. I can’t really comment what it was. We don’t know where it came from, we’re just happy that it’s gone.”
Mokosak says that at this point unless another incident is reported the investigation is concluded based on the thorough readings that were taken by CRD Hazmat and fire teams.
“Hopefully it’s not an issue that’s gonna re-occur,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s any more that the Hazmat team can do unless we specifically find a source.”