Pittsfield, ME – One of the two Puritan Medical Products factories in Pittsfield that produce millions of swabs to test for COVID-19 was evacuated Thursday night after employees reported an odor and several complained of trouble breathing. Friday morning, the issue was identified as a broken heater putting out carbon monoxide, according to Pittsfield Fire Chief Bernard Williams.

The Pittsfield Fire Department received a call around 10:15 p.m. Thursday night that Emergency Medical Services was on the way to the Puritan factory for a person with difficulty breathing. When the department arrived, the factory had been evacuated. Several people said they thought they smelled propane, others said they smelled something else. Several people reported headaches, nausea and trouble breathing.

The fire department went in with a four-gas meter, but got normal readings. Upon the advice of EMS and the fire department, all staff were sent home. Five people were taken to the hospital.

Friday morning, a contractor and a technician from the air handling company determined that the issue was a malfunctioning heater that was putting out carbon monoxide. Virginia Templet, director of marketing for Puritan, said that there was a gas nozzle in the heating and cooling system on the roof that had been improperly installed. The nozzle has been fixed and the other nozzles were checked and confirmed to be functional.

“One gas nozzle on top of the roof was just improperly installed which has since been fixed and updated,” Templet said. “That’s what caused a few of the employees to get light-headed and the emergency crews to be called, but everything is fine now.”