EPPING — State officials and firefighters believe naturally occurring gases from the ground sent four people from a dental office to the hospital Tuesday, according to Fire Chief Donald DeAngelis.
DeAngelis, who met with representatives from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services Wednesday afternoon, said firefighters responded to 5 Janelle Court around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after employees of Rockingham Dental reported that a strange odor was present in the building for a few days.
“On the third day, they called us,” DeAngelis said, adding the building, which also housed a law office, was evacuated as a precaution.
DeAngelis said ambulance crews from Brentwood and Raymond took three people to Exeter Hospital while a fourth was driven there. A fifth person, who was complaining of a headache, declined transport Tuesday.
He said all of the people were treated and released from the hospital as of Wednesday.
DeAngelis said members of the regional hazardous materials team, which is comprised of firefighters from across the Seacoast, were “instrumental” in helping crews narrow down the potential source of the odor.
After removing all the cleaning products and household items, DeAngelis said firefighters detected a flammable gas in the building.
“It could be from regularly occurring ground gas,” DeAngelis said, adding the office was built on top of an area which used to be wetlands.
As a result, DeAngelis said it is possible gases — such as hydrogen fluoride or methane — from decomposing materials were forced out of the ground because of the currently high water tables. He said firefighters did not detect the odor or receive any complaints from occupants when they checked nearby buildings, including an adjacent one which is unoccupied.
“This appears to be an isolated incident,” DeAngelis said.
The office is located in an industrial and residential area off of Route 125.
DeAngelis said the building will remain unoccupied until the owner finds a remedy to the issue, and firefighters and the DES will work with the owner.
In the meantime, DeAngelis said the staff at the dental office called customers to reschedule appointments at a second location in Exeter and firefighters removed the files and other materials to allow the legal office to continue to operate.