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Odor forces evacuation of Heritage

Photo by Julie Wells

Photo by Julie Wells

CONYERS -- School and county fire officials evacuated Heritage High School on Wednesday morning because of a suspicious odor.

Late in the morning, school officials noticed an irritant coming from the school's HVAC system.

"We evacuated our building as a safety precaution," school Principal Greg Fowler said in an automated phone message to parents early Wednesday afternoon, adding that students were safe and the Rockdale County Fire and Rescue Department was assisting.

Two engines, a squad, an EMS unit, battalion officer and HazMat truck responded to the location. Crews ventilated hallways and classrooms and reversed the air flow.

Rockdale County Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Mike Lee said only one person reported a problem from the odor. The student refused treatment and was picked up later by a parent.

After investigating, school officials discovered that a student released pepper spray into the air, causing the cayenne pepper-based irritant to enter the air system, school officials said.

Just before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, fire crews cleared the building and allowed students and staff to re-enter the school to continue their instructional day.

"We will continue to investigate this matter, and we will always keep the safety of our students and staff our top priority," Fowler said in another message to parents Wednesday afternoon.

Citizen reporters Jay Jones and Alena Parker contributed to this article.