The incident marks the second time in less than two weeks that a Massachusetts restaurant has experienced a chemical reaction from kitchen cleaning agents

By Joelle Goldstein
November 20, 2019 12:46 AM

For the second time in less than two weeks, a Massachusetts restaurant was evacuated due to a dangerous chemical reaction in the kitchen, brought on by a mixture of cleaning agents.

Customers and employees inside a Woburn Red Robin were rushed out of the restaurant on Tuesday around 4:30 p.m., shortly after a cleaning crew took multiple cleaning agents to the kitchen area, Woburn Fire Chief Stephen W. Adgate told WCVB 5.

Adgate said a 911 call was placed by an employee at the restaurant, initially for “a chemical explosion,” but when first responders arrived at 369 Washington St., they determined it was a chemical reaction likely started by the cleaning materials.

“It was a cleaning agent,” Adgate confirmed to the outlet. “We don’t have specifics of what particular cleaning agent it was.”

All customers had been evacuated from the eatery by the time emergency personnel arrived, Adgate said.

Three employees were later transported to a local hospital out of precaution, but no other injuries were reported.

“The initial evaluation at first, [the hospitalized employees] seem to be fine but if we’re gonna error, we’re gonna error on the side of caution,” Adgate explained. “We want to make sure they go, they get evaluated, and an all-clear from a medical professional.”

Officials in hazmat suits

Authorities are currently investigating the incident, which Adgate said was “declared a level 1 hazmat emergency.”

“We take it very seriously,” he shared with the outlet. “We want to make sure we follow [the] protocol procedure and make sure we do everything appropriately. So far, so good … Right now, it’s a time thing. We’re waiting for time to take its course.”

As they continue to look into what happened, the fire chief added that the incident will likely cause officials to pay “a little bit more attention … to certain chemicals that are on site.”

In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for Red Robin confirmed the incident, noting that the restaurant’s manager immediately evacuated all guests and eight team members from the building.

“Because the cause of the incident is still being investigated, we are deferring to first responders for any further details on the potential cause of the chemical reaction and the status of Team Members and others who were in the restaurant at the time of the incident,” the spokesperson added. “While the incident is being investigated, the restaurant is closed until further notice and will reopen only after clearance is obtained from the health department and other appropriate authorities.”

On Wednesday, the spokesperson confirmed that the Health Department had approved the restaurant to reopen following an inspection.

The incident comes less than two weeks after a Buffalo Wild Wings in Burlington, Massachusetts, experienced a similar — but fatal — chemical reaction from kitchen cleaning agents, which tragically led to the death of its general manager Ryan Baldera.

Emergency responders arrived at the restaurant on Nov. 8 around 5:30 p.m. after receiving a report of a “sick individual and a potential chemical release,” interim Burlington Fire Chief Michael Patterson told reporters.

After being treated by paramedics outside of the restaurant for nausea, Baldera, 32, was transported to a local hospital, where he later died, according to a press release from the Burlington Fire Department.

At least 13 other individuals, including two customers and 11 employees, also became sick once the product was released into the air of the restaurant, causing them all to self-check into local hospitals.

It was later announced that Baldera had been exposed to “a strong cleaning agent” while cleaning the floor of the restaurant. (The fatal reaction occurred when two cleaning products, Super 8 and Scale Kleen, accidentally came into contact with each other.)

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Due to the proximity of the terrifying events and the four-mile radius of the restaurants, Adgate said they were being extra careful now.

“The circumstances almost seem identical to an incident that happened in a neighboring community,” he told WCVB. “The fact that it happened in Burlington about a week or two ago does heighten the awareness.”

“As you all know, what just happened in a neighboring community, [but] we take these things very serious[ly] all the time,” he added.