In the end, the problem was caused not by a WMD, but by a bit of dryer lint blocking an air inlet on the water heater, causing an odor which sent the Frank Garcia family scrambling for fresh air.
The family began smelling a metallic odor Sunday evening about 5 p.m. A neighbor provided a portable propane and methane gas detector, which went off. That’s when the family called for help.
Initially, the Garcia family feared the smell may be a pesticide chemical which they, and two neighbors had sprayed on their lawns the day before.
In February two little girls in Layton died after being exposed to a chemical which was sprayed in the family’s yard to get rid of field mice.
“That case in Layton has us all extra cautious,” said Syracuse Fire Chief Craig Cottrell. “It was just a coincidence that the pesticide was applied the day before.”
A Davis County hazardous response team, was activated. In addition to Syracuse firefighters, the team includes hazmat personnel from Layton, the South Davis Metro Fire Agency, Sunset City, Hill Air Force Base and the Utah State Response Civil Service team, which are trained to deal with myriad hazardous materials. Cottrell said he called out the National Guard unit because they have the capability to identify some 120,000 chemicals. “They have a lot of the same equipment, but when it gets down to it, (the National Guard team) can identify a lot more chemicals.”
The hazmat specialists worked through the night before coming up with a cause for the smell.
Cottrell said the smell was from the water heater not combusting the gas.
The chief said the problem of lint blocking an air inlet is not common, “but it could be common if a clothes dryer and water heater are in close proximity.” He urged homeowners to make sure dryer lint is cleared from any air intakes.
The Garcias were evacuated from their home Sunday night, spending the night with neighbors. They were allowed back home Monday morning. Cottrell said, “Now they know their home is safe.”