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'Unidentified toxic substance' closes South City street, sickens several

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An “unidentified toxic substance” closed a South San Francisco street for nearly five hours after a building inspector became ill during a routine inspection.

Second Lane between north to Magnolia Avenue was closed just after 3 p.m. when South San Francisco Fire Department received a call that a toxic odor had made a building inspector sick during a visit to a home at 552 Second Lane, Battalion Chief Arthur Mosqueda said.

The homeowners were interested in doing a remodel, Mosqueda said, but the smell of the toxic substance was so strong the building inspector had gotten sick and called 911. The woman was transported to the hospital and is “doing fine.”

Mosqueda said the block was evacuated until around 8 p.m. Crews searched the house and could only find an unknown product at the bottom of a garbage bin.

“There was no leak, spill or visible container,” he said, “only an odor.”

A hazmat team from Belmont was called and took over the investigation.

Mosqueda, who was one of the first on the scene, said he did not smell an oder until he rounded a corner of the home and it hit him immediately.

“I had to back out,” he said.

The substance, described as a small amount of liquid, is being tested by San Mateo County’s Office of Emergency Services and the hazmat team. Its contents are unknown. Mosqueda said the only description they have so far is an “unidentified toxic liquid.”

The homeowners were not affected by the odor. Mosqueda said they were surprised when emergency responders showed up. A South City battalion chief was also treated for stomach pain, but was released.

Residents were allowed back into their homes around 8 p.m. The home with the questionable substance, however, remains evacuated.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com