Bear spray clears a Hamilton apartment building


Published February 14, 2023 at 5:36 pm

Fire trucks at 50 Cathcart St. (Nathan Sager, inTheHammer)

That was not love in the air at a Hamilton apartment building on Valentine’s Day — it was bear spray.

Residents of the Equiton Living-owned six-storey building at 50 Cathcart St., in the Beasley neighbourhood got a snootful of something noxious early on Tuesday afternoon. They rushed outside after a fire alarm went off around 1:35 p.m. Once clear of the building, , several residents shared accounts of coughing and gagging due to strong odours in the building prior to the activation of the fire alarm, and a few were heard to remark that their housepets had been behaving strangely prior to the alarm.

Eleven crews from Hamilton Fire Department (HFD) responded for what an automated social media feed classified as a “Hazmat Level 2 response.” The culprit turned out to be a deterrent better used in the wild, which inflames the eyes and upper respiratory system.

“HFD Hazardous Materials Response Team members went searching through the six floors trying to locate the possible cause,” Assistant Deputy Chief Ryan Coburn told inTheHammer in an e-mail.

“Eventually the product was located. Bear spray was released on one of the floors and extended to upper floors. HFD contained the spray, and (completed) air monitoring before letting the residents back to their units.”

Coburn added that firefighters assisted some residents out of the building to Hamilton Street Railway buses. The six-storey building’s elevator has been out of service for more than 10 days. There are active elevators hundreds of metres away in an adjoining building.

Two people were treated by paramedics, but were not injured. Around 4:45 p.m., residents were able to return home.

Hamilton Police officers — including Chief Frank Bergen — and Hamilton Paramedics arrived to assist, and residents were told to move to Wilson St. in order not to be downwind of the bear spray-befouled air.

The attached 16-storey building at 125 Wellington St. N. was also cleared as a precaution, and spans of Cathcart and Wilson streets were closed during the afternoon rush hour.

Residents fighting rent increase

While unrelated to the confirmed cause of Tuesday’s evacuation, residents of Wellington Place have been fighting Equiton’s proposed above-guideline increase to their rent.

Last June, the Ontario government capped increases at 2.5 per cent for 2023 unless permission is granted by the Landlord and Tenant Board for a greater increase. Equiton proposed a 4.58-per-cent increase.

On Nov. 18, the Hamilton chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) organized residents in a demonstration along Wellington St. N. to protest the rent increase and what they described as poor living conditions. Ward 2 Coun. Cameron Kroetsch attended and gave encouragement to residents.

The rent matter has yet to be resolved. The City of Hamilton has agreed to inspect the building, ACORN recently said.

— with files from Anthony Urciuoli

(Full disclosure: The author of this post is a tenant at the Wellington Place apartment complex.)

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