A strong odor of natural gas and the simultaneous testing of emergency sirens caused some confusion at the Bacara Resort & Spa Wednesday morning.
A motorist driving on Highway 101 near Santa Barbara Ranch reported a strong odor of natural gas around 9:30 a.m. While their engines were en route to the area, the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. received several similar reports.
Before fire engines arrived, the Southern California Gas Company reported a spill of mercaptan, a substance added to natural gas to give the gas its distinctive scent. The odorant is added to gas for easy detection of leaks. Approximately two gallons of mercaptan were spilled near Ellwood Pier.
Once firefighters arrived at the spill, they neutralized the odor by spraying a foam blanket over the spill. The gas company was responsible for the rest of the cleanup. The Bacara Resort & Spa evacuated its buildings for 45 minutes because of the natural gas smell.
The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services was conducting a siren test in the same area before the odor was reported. This, in addition to the strong odor, caused some confusion for residents, Bacara visitors and firefighters.