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No toxic gasses found inside Billings apartment building after partial evacuation

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Posted at 6:28 PM, May 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 11:51:27-04

BILLINGS — Some residents were evacuated from the RockVue Lofts apartment building at 429 N. 33rd St. around 3 p.m. Monday in Billings after a person smelled an odor that caused an "irritating sensation" in their breathing, said Billings Fire Battalion Chief Jason Lyon.

Nine hazmat personnel with the Billings Fire Department investigated the building and found no evidence of toxic irritants in the air, Lyon said. They tested for oxygen deficiency, flammable and explosive gasses, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, chlorine and hydrogen cyanide.

No one was transported to the hospital as a result of the breathing irritation, Lyon said.

Lyon said the person who originally called in the smell was on the fourth floor of the building and couldn't name a specific odor, only that it caused an irritating sensation when that person tried to breathe. About six people reported having trouble breathing.

A woman who lives on the fourth floor of the building said she felt a burning sensation in the back of her throat that went away once she went outside.

People could choose to evacuate the building, or they were allowed to shelter inside their apartments since there was no specific threat, Lyon said.

Besides the person who originally called 911, about five other people reported similar breathing symptoms with no specific smell associated, Lyon said.

Out of an abundance of caution, firefighters brought fans into the building to blow away whatever was causing people to have irritated breathing, Lyon said. Firefighters worked from the bottom up, allowing people to return to their homes as they were fanned out.

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Billings firefighters in hazmat gear prepare to sweep the Western Towers apartment for toxic gasses Monday.