The powerful opioid fentanyl is believed to have caused what police in Chico, Calif., are calling a "mass casualty incident" Saturday morning. Authorities say one person died and another 12 were hospitalized after a mass overdose. Chico Fire Department Chief Steve Standridge says every ambulance in the city was sent to a residence after a call was received from the home around 9am, the Sacramento Bee reports. Chico Police Chief Michael O'Brien says officers "found multiple individuals in what appeared to be life-threatening, overdose conditions." Police believe the victims, who range in age from 19 to 30, are all friends or acquaintances.
O'Brien says police suspect the mass overdose was caused by the ingestion of fentanyl along with another substance, NPR reports. The residence is being treated as a hazmat site and two officers who felt ill at the scene were treated in the hospital and released. "We were waiting, and have been waiting unfortunately, for this to happen in the sense that we knew fentanyl had been moving west," the chief says. He says the outcome would "have been far worse" if officers hadn't administered the overdose antidote naloxone, which they started carrying after a grant from a local health department last year. (Fentanyl is now the deadliest drug in the US.)