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Hotel Emma evacuated after carbon monoxide sickens guests and workers

Lauren Terrazas

Emergency officials evacuated the Pearl's Hotel Emma, one of San Antonio's most popular hotels, on Wednesday after a buildup of carbon monoxide was detected, sickening workers and guests.

Joe Arrington, public information officer for the San Antonio Fire Department, explained to TPR that the cause was not yet determined.

He said the fire department was called to the hotel just before 11 a.m. because someone was not feeling well.

As firefighters treated that individual, Arrington said, they realized other people were also not feeling well. Their symptoms, he added, included nausea, light-headedness, head pain and dizziness — all signs of potential carbon monoxide poisoning.

More than a dozen people were moved outside, Arrington said, and 15 were sent to the hospital. All cases were "precautionary," he explained.

CPS Energy personnel were present to assist the emergency response. They did not find any indication of a natural gas leak, Arrington said.

The entire hotel was evacuated, he added.

SAFD was working with CPS and the hotel to figure out what caused the carbon monoxide buildup. As of Wednesday afternoon, "the CO values have diminished completely," he reported, and there was no threat to the public.

He also said the hotel planned to stay closed until the reason for the buildup was detected and resolved.

The fire department said most of those transported to the hospital were hotel employees. It added that there was no danger to people in nearby buildings, according to news reports.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Pearl explained that Southerleigh, a restaurant attached to the hotel, was also evacuated but would reopen late Wednesday afternoon.

"The rest of Pearl’s properties have not been impacted and remain open," the statement added.

Arrington explained that colorless and odorless carbon monoxide "is a product of incomplete combustion" that becomes dangerous when it accumulates in a space -- for example, from generators in a garage that produce exhaust or fireplaces producing smoke in a room without enough ventilation.

He also urged owners of gas-powered appliances to purchase CO detectors or alarms for their homes; to use a generator outside the home to let the exhaust vent properly; and to not use their ovens to heat their homes when cold weather returns to the area.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the reason the hotel was evacuated. It was a buildup of carbon monoxide.

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Jerry Clayton can be reached at jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @jerryclayton.
Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules