‘Approximately six’ habanero peppers cause HAZMAT scare at Denver school

Font Size:

On Monday, when Jefferson County Open School in suburban Denver was evacuated and a hazmat team showed up because of a contamination scare, The Daily Caller was worried.

Turns out, “approximately six” habanero peppers caused the entire kerfuffle, reports Denver ABC affiliate KMGH.

The half dozen habanero peppers were scattered in shreds among the wood chips on the preK-12 school’s playground,

The pell-mell pepper pandemonium went down at about 1 p.m. Children playing on the playground began reporting mysterious skin reactions. Seven students ended up in the hospital. Another 23 students and an adult aide were reportedly decontaminated on school grounds.

The decontamination process involved firefighters rinsing and showering children in a makeshift tent on school grounds, notes Denver FOX affiliate KDVR.

The school was closed on Tuesday while authorities investigated the cause of the irritation. School officials first thought maybe it was some fertilizer on the soccer field. However, firefighters discounted that idea.

Members of a local environmental services team discovered the pepper parts amid the wood chips. In a statement obtained by The Denver Post, local government officials said they had no idea how the fiery chilis got there.

School district officials say they are thoroughly cleaning the school’s playground equipment to remove any remaining habanero oil remnants. Also, a large section of wood chips is getting replaced.

School will be back in session on Wednesday.

Habanero peppers are rated from 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale, a gauge of the “hotness” of anything related to chili peppers. By comparison, Satan’s Blood – from Sauce Crafters Inc. – rates 800,000. Police-grade pepper spray rates 5,300,000. A pimento rates 500.

Follow Eric on Twitter and on Facebook, and send education-related story tips to

Eric Owens