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Apartment declared safe after bomb squad was deployed to the scene on Second Avenue on the morning of Christmas Eve.

COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - Emergency responders have asked residents of a block in Gaston to evacuate after discovering a man passed out amid a chemical smell in his apartment at 98 Second Avenue on Monday morning.A 55-year old man was found barely responsive in his apartment in Gaston amid what a spokesman for the Washington County Sheriff's Office described as a "strong chemical smell" on Monday morning, Dec. 24, resulting in his hospitalization and the evacuation of the entire block.

Several hours later at approximately 8:30 a.m., the apartment building had been determined safe and no hazardous chemicals were located, according to the WCSO.

Washington County Detective Robert Rookhuyzen said the call came in just after 5 a.m. Monday, with a nearby Forest Grove police officer arriving first on the scene and pulling the man from his apartment. The officer and other emergency responders noticed an acetone-like odor at the scene, according to Rookhuyzen.

"The decision was made to evacuate the whole building, and they're working on the surrounding buildings," Rookhuyzen said.

The Riverside Apartments, where the man reportedly lives, are located at 98 Second Street, and Rookhuyzen said deputies were "evacuating up into the 100s."

Although an out-of-service TriMet bus was brought down to Gaston to shuttle residents to the Gaston Rural Fire District station for shelter, Rookhuyzen said, many people on the block declined to leave their homes.

"Most people aren't willing to go anywhere," Rookhuyzen said.

Rookhuyzen described the evacuations and notifications as a precautionary measure, since the source and nature of the chemical smell were not immediately clear.

No other injuries have been reported.

The man who was transported to the hospital was reportedly found by his girlfriend, Rookhuyzen said. He was described as "uncooperative and not really responsive" with emergency responders.

The man is believed to have been known to local law enforcement.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office provides law enforcement services in Gaston, which does not have its own municipal police department.

A hazardous materials team from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and a bomb squad from the Portland Police Bureau were also activated to respond to the incident.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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