Chili causes evacuation of Sunset Meadows

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One of the residents at Sunset Meadows cooked a three-alarm chili Wednesday, literally.

More than 50 residents from the Sunset Meadows II, an independent living center for senior citizens, were evacuated after residents complained a smell was irritating their throat, lungs and eyes. All seniors who lived in the facility were moved to the cafeteria in Sunset Meadows I because officials feared the odor was a possible gas leak or a potential dangerous mixture of cleaning chemicals.

Sunset Meadows residents Robert and Mary Meyers were on the third floor when the smell wafted through the building. According to Robert, they couldn't quite smell it on the third floor but when they came into contact with the scent, they contended it was a "funny smell."

The Craig Police Department, Craig/Rural Fire Rescue and the Moffat County Sheriff's Department all responded to the scene. Ledford Street was closed in front of the center for about three hours and members of all departments stood in the cold and snow while the building was investigated for the contaminant.

Officials first suspected cleaning materials reacted while they were mixed during the cleaning of one of the rooms on the first floor. All of the chemicals were removed from the building and none were found to have caused the irritating odor.

John Barr lives near Sunset Meadows and was one of the first people on scene. Working side-by-side with rescue officials, Barr entered the building and assisted in the evacuation by single-handedly helping get people out of the pungent building. Barr's first impression of the smell was that it was a mixture of cleaning supplies.

None of the residents were hurt seriously, but they did have to endure a walk through the cold and snow to the other building and to awaiting vans.

Officials were impressed with Sunset Meadows Director Celine Derick and her staff for the way they evacuated the facility.

"Celine and her staff did an excellent job of evacuating the residents," said Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta. "Most of the people were evacuated by the time we were on scene."

While the source of the smell remained a mystery for three hours, one of the residents who lived on the first floor told officials that they had been cooking a green chili in their microwave before the smell was discovered.

Craig Fire/Rescue Chief Roy Mason started the microwave with the chili in it and the smell immediately filled the room. The chili was thrown out and the area was vented before residents were allowed back in.

(Daily Press writer Lee Harstad contributed to this article)

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