The Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore was evacuated when students and staff began noticing an odd odor. It became so powerful that it caused some to begin coughing and experience problems breathing.
As WBAL reports, 350 students and 50 teachers and staff members were forced out of the building when the smell couldn’t be located.
Fire and hazmat crews were called in to find out from where the odor that was choking some students was coming.
It became a baffling mystery to them when tests were inconclusive.
School President Bill Heiser explained:
“At first, they thought, perhaps, it was a burned-out light bulb, and that was the cause of the smell.”
That ended up being the wrong answer, and the search continued. Baltimore Fire Chief Roman Clark said:
“The primary readings we took within the school, we came up with negative readings. We took a secondary reading, which was also negative throughout the school.”
Then an accidental find showed them the surprising answer: a pumpkin spice air freshener.
The smelly air freshener was spotted plugged into a wall while firefighters were opening windows to air the school out with fans.
“This plug-in air freshener that basically puts out the odor every so many seconds, and it’s a pumpkin spice, and that’s exactly what, if you go in there, you can smell, so it has been identified. It is not hazardous at all.”
The School president didn’t feel convinced that pumpkin spice was the only cause of the mysterious odor though. He said:
“What they did is also, as a precaution, they used fans to kind of circulate the air, and when they circulated the air, they did smell an air freshener. We don’t know that that’s the cause. It certainly wouldn’t be uncommon to blow an air freshener and then get that smell.”
School resumed the following day, even after Heiser expressed his concern. A statement from the school said:
After extensive testing, the BCFD determined that the building was safe.
Dozens of students were treated at the school following the evacuation, and two students and three adults transported to hospitals. One of the adults was taken to the hospital for an unrelated reason.
Watch the fire chief describe the odor below.