"London's Thai Cottage put the pow in nam prik pao on Wednesday when fumes from a huge pot of dry cooking bird's eye chilies sparked a terror alert that led police to break down the restaurant's door. Firefighters emerged from the eatery with a pot containing nine pounds of smoking peppers.
Soho residents had complained of a chemical burning their throats and the London Fire Brigade quickly dispatched a chemical response team. When I was a kid my chilihead father had the brilliant idea of making his own hot oil in the house by frying peppers in oil. So I can attest to the fact that vapors from smoking chilies do indeed take one's breath away. Thank god dear old Dad didn't use anywhere near nine pounds.
I will say however that smoking peppers do not smell at all like a chemical. Chef Chalemchai Tangjariyapoon agrees, "I was making a spicy dip with extra-hot chillies that are deliberately burnt. To us, it smells like burnt chili and it is slightly unusual."
DiStefano, Joe. "Thai Chilies Spark Terror Alert in London." 5 October 2007. Slashfood.com. 6 October 2007. http://www.slashfood.com/2007/10/05/thai-chilies-spark-terror-alert-in-london/