It was an ordinary school day in Baltimore when students and teachers on Cristo Rey Jesuit High School’s third floor began noticing a strange smell drifting into their classrooms.
“It was a smell that they certainly weren’t used to. It appeared to be getting stronger,” Bill Heiser, the school’s president, told the Baltimore Sun.
Several students and teachers reported having trouble breathing, Heiser said. The school’s principal ordered students and teachers to evacuate the building.
Fire department and emergency staff arrived a few minutes later. Emergency medical technicians treated several people at the scene, and five people were sent to the hospital, the school said in a statement.
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A hazardous materials team was called in to search for dangerous material, but when they did a scan of the school, they couldn’t find anything.
“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,” Baltimore Fire Chief Roman Clark told WBAL-TV.
Unable to find the source of the smell, firefighters began opening doors and installing fans to try to air out the building.
That’s when one of them unplugged a single pumpkin spice scented air freshener from the wall.
Turns out, that smelly seasonal scent was the culprit all along.
“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,” Clark told WBAL-TV.
“After extensive testing, the BCFD determined that the building was safe,” the school wrote in a statement on its website. “I would like to thank our faculty and students for their patience and leadership.”
Principal Heiser said there was ultimately no danger, but that it was still the right call the evacuate the building. “Better safe than sorry,” he told the Baltimore Sun.