DUPAGE COUNTY - A dangerous chemical spill in the western suburbs prompted a HAZMAT response Thursday evening, when a toxic and deadly gas was accidentally concocted during routine pool maintenance.
Just before 5:30 p.m., the Warrenville Fire Department responded to The Westlyn apartment complex in the 28000 block of Diehl Road.
The call was soon upgraded to a box alarm, prompting a response from HAZMAT technicians in surrounding communities, officials said.
Fire officials confirmed that chlorine and muriatic acid were spilled on accident. The dangerous combination creates chlorine gas.
Technician level teams made entry into the building to contain, neutralize, and remove the product from the building. Officials said inside, they discovered a ‘hazardous vapor cloud.’
"My first initial breath, I couldn’t even breathe. It was stinging all up and down my throat and my lungs," said Ariane Hagen, resident. "It was really scary."
Hagen's unit is just steps from where it happened. Meantime, other residents also began to notice the alarming smell.
"I was in my apartment and all of the sudden I started to smell some massive chemical smell," said Joe Valha, resident.
A spokesperson with the complex says a maintenance team was restocking pool supplies when "there was a mixture of chemicals that caused a reaction in a mechanical room."
"Nice reaction, fumes, and then everybody came out," said Valha.
When first responders arrived, they triggered the building's fire alarms.
"They were really loud," said Valha.
As they were hurrying outside – many, taking their pets with them – tenants said the halls reeked of chlorine.
"The throat was burning in the hallway," said Josh Ruggles, resident.
It led to a massive emergency response and an hours-long evacuation.
"This is a full-blown HAZMAT response, and they’re in like the Three Mile Island suits, and again they’re getting hosed down before they go in, hosed down when they come back out," said Valha.
Firefighters used a large portion of the parking lot during their response, as their setup outside was just as important as it was to get inside to contain the spill.
Carefully, but quickly, HAZMAT technicians were seen suiting up and heading inside the building.
On their way out, the HAZMAT team followed a rigorous decontamination process.
"Started hosing them off, haven’t seen anything like it before," said Shane Slettom, resident.
Neighbors gathered together, unsure when they'd be able to go back in.
"They just said, ‘don’t expect to go back in anytime soon,’" said Ruggles.
Firefighters ventilated the building, and just after 7 p.m. residents were able to return to their apartments.
According to officials, four people were treated and released by paramedics for non-life threatening injuries.
Several surrounding fire departments responded to assist Warrenville firefighters, including Wheaton, Lisle-Woodridge, Downers Grove, Boilingbrook and Naperville.