Santa Paula Times

A Ventura County Fire Department?s Hazardous Material Response Team member (right) carries a can containing a white substance that had been dropped off at the front counter of the Santa Paula Police Department. (Center) an FBI agent talks to other firefighters. The substance turned out to be non-hazardous. Photoby Debbie Johnson

Mysterious white powder: SPPD station evacuated after haz-mat scare

October 19, 2001
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesFear of terrorists prompted by the yet undetermined source of anthrax incidents in Florida and now New York hit Santa Paula when a resident dropped off a package containing a white powdery substance at the police department, causing an evacuation on Thursday, Oct. 11.?It was later determined that the powder was an alkaline-based substance and not a hazardous material,? said Senior Officer Jimmy Fogata.The incident started at about 3 p.m. when an unidentified city resident brought a brown paper bag containing the powdery substance into the front lobby of the police station, located on North 10th Street, said Sgt. Gary Marshall.Due to the unknown origin and nature of the substance, the Santa Paula Fire Department was summoned and determined it was possibly bio-hazardous material.The SPPD station was evacuated and 911 emergency calls diverted to the Ventura County Sheriff?s Department dispatch center.
The Ventura County Fire Department?s Hazardous Material Response Team was called to assist the SPFD as well as the FBI and county Environmental Health Unit to help identify the substance.Once the substance was found to be non-hazardous, officers and other SPPD personnel returned to the station and reactivated the 911 dispatch center. In all, the building was evacuated for about 2 1/2 hours.The person who turned the material over the SPPD, ?Just found it and thought maybe it was drugs,? said Sgt. Marshall. ?Such things are not uncommon and if it had been done prior to September 11 we wouldn?t have thought anything of it, we would have tested it to see if it was dope and then tossed it,? if the substance proved to be a non-narcotic.The incident in Santa Paula was just one of several hazardous material scares that occurred in Ventura County on Thursday; a rising number of such incidents are taking place across the nation in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. A Florida man died after being exposed to anthrax and two co-workers at the supermarket tabloid offices tested positive for exposure after a envelope containing a white powder was received through the mail. An NBC television production assistant in New York also has tested positive for exposure to anthrax, again received through the mail.