One Teacher Injured in La Cumbre Jr High Acid Spill

(Photos: Santa Barbara City Fire Department)
Update by Santa Barbara City Fire Department
5:10 p.m., April 30, 2018

At approximately 8:41 a.m. Monday morning, Santa Barbara City Fire Department dispatched one engine to a medical emergency at La Cumbre Junior High School, a part of Santa Barbara Unified School District, for a reported burn victim from citric acid. Shortly after arrival, crews found one patient located in a second floor science supply room who was exposed to sulfuric acid. The room was not occupied by students at the time of the emergency. The patient, who is a teacher at La Cumbre Junior High School, was treated on scene by firefighters and transported by AMR to Cottage Hospital where she was later flown by CalStar to a burn center.

The release of an unknown quantity of the hazardous material, along with other unknown chemicals in the near vicinity prompted the quick and timely evacuation of both the main building and cafeteria to isolate exposure to any other staff and students. Incident command worked closely with La Cumbre Junior High administration and Santa Barbara Unified School District officials on the response. Once safe locations were identified, school staff made the determination to keep students on campus and resume normal school sessions.

Santa Barbara South Coast HazMat Response Team was activated which prompted the response of additional resources from Santa Barbara City Fire, Carpinteria-Summerland Fire and Montecito Fire Protection Districts. Each of these departments have specific pre-assigned roles within the team. Santa Barbara City Fire provided a total of 3 fire engines, a HazMat Unit, and a chief officer who was in command of the incident. Carpinteria-Summerland Fire provided an additional vehicle and decontamination trailer. Montecito Fire provided additional HazMat Specialist to support operations.

A total of two entries were made by HazMat personnel where it was confirmed that approximately one quart of sulfuric acid had been spilled. Sulfuric acid is commonly found in chemical labs and industrial facilities and is the primary ingredient in batteries. It is one of the world’s strongest acids which possess a significant hazard when it makes contact with skin. It is a colorless odorless syrupy liquid that is soluble in water. It is not gaseous and will not spread through the air or HVAC systems. This combination allowed crews to quickly contain the exposure.

Once the scene was neutralized and the emergent phase of the incident was mitigated, operations were transferred over to Channel Coast Corporation, a local HazMat cleanup crew based out of Santa Barbara. Channel Coast Corporation will work closely with school personnel to fully clean and decontaminate the area affected.

Update by Santa Barbara City Fire Department

2:15 p.m., April 30, 2018
Entry teams made access and neutralized the spill. The emergent phase of the incident has been mitigated. The hazardous material is confirmed to be approximately 1 quart of sulfuric acid. The spill is isolated to one classroom, however, due to an abundance of caution both La Cumbre staff and Incident Command have elected to maintain evacuation of the main building. 

Parents may choose to pick up their students, however, it is not necessary as the students are safe and school remains in session. Normal pickup times remain in effect. “Crews continue to make safe, slow and methodical progress towards stabilizing the situation”, said Incident Commander Chief Chris Mailes. “We absolutely don’t want to place the lives of any responders, the staff, or students at jeopardy”.

Members of the South Coast HazMat team making entry to stabilize the scene.

Update by Santa Barbara City Fire Department

11:20 a.m., April 30, 2018

Units from Santa Barbara City, Montecito and Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Departments are on scene of a Hazardous Materials emergency at La Cumbre Junior High School/Santa Barbara Community Academy. One teacher has been injured and has been transported to Cottage Hospital for treatment. No other exposures or injuries to staff or students have been reported. Students have been evacuated from the main building and are being sheltered in place in the auditorium and other safe buildings outside the exposure area. Students will remain on campus at this time. Incident command is working closely with SB Unified School District as the situation evolves.

By an edhat reader
11:12 a.m., April 30, 2018

Does anyone know why a Hazmat team is at La Cumbre Jr High? It looks like a lot of the kids are evacuated to the grass area, what happened?


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 May 3, 2018: Support Grows for Teacher Injured by Acid Spill

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  1. My daughter was in the science classroom adjacent to the lab storage room. The container that had the acid in it was on the floor in another container and the thick glass spontaneously broke. It splashed then caused her to slip. It was a very sad a traumatic day for all and we are hoping for a fast recovery for the teacher- there is a Go Fund me page set up please donate if you can.

  2. RICHYRICH – pretty clear you don’t have kids. There was a “release of an unknown quantity of the hazardous material, along with other unknown chemicals” at a school. They didn’t know it was only a quart until they sent in their teams, which is what our tax dollars pay them to do. They don’t slack off when it comes to kids being in harms way these days, and I’m pretty glad about that. Sad you don’t seem to care.

  3. Its hard to imagine a quart of even the most concentrated sulphuric acid resulting in an injury requiring air evacuation to a burn center unless every normal safety precaution was bypassed. (It is also hard to imagine the most concentrated forms of H2SO4 being stored in a school lab which makes the accident more baffling) You just don’t handle this stuff (even in a sealed bottle) without appropriate gloves, apron coat, and face shield in addition to good ventilation. Despite the sort-of correct statement that this acid does not spread through the air, in reality it does give off corrosive fumes when exposed to a wide variety of other common chemicals (like moisture in the air). Hope that this teacher recovers fully and goes on to teach many important lessons.

  4. Aren’t the firefighters and other emergency personnel simply waiting around to be needed? It’s not a bad idea to respond in full force; they can always split off and go elsewhere if needed. And it acts as a training activity, keeping them on their toes, reminding them of specific procedures. It’s not like they let houses burn down because they showed up to this incident.

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