Hazmat scare in west El Paso

Hazmat scare in west El Paso
Friday, June 13, 2014 - 7:41pm

A hazmat scare at the Homeland Security Office, located in the 4100 block of Pinnacle, caused the entire building to be put on lockdown.

The hazmat situation started around 12:30 Friday afternoon when office workers opened an envelope and found an unidentified white powder.

Several people had to be quarantined and decontaminated after a white powder came out of an envelope.

"When they opened the envelope they saw a little mist," said El Paso Fire Department Battalion Chief Hector Cano.

Cano said everyone in the office had to be tested as a precaution.

"Six to eight were in the office when that happened,” he said. “We had treat them as possibly exposed. They are the ones getting decontaminated."

They also checked to make sure that the air was normal.

“They had to spray them down, decontaminate them,” said Linda Brito, who works in the office space right below Homeland Security. “They came out all full of their masks and then went straight into the ambulance and drove off.”

She and her co-workers were told to stay put inside the building until they were given the all clear.

"A firefighter with a breathing mask walks into the office and tells us we can't leave the building until further notice. There was a chemical spill of some sort," she said.

When hazmat crews entered the building and found the envelope, they put it in a large yellow container.

A total of 14 units responded to the hazmat scene.

"Any time there is any hazardous material incident we take every precaution possible. We take out time to make sure we set up everything," said Cano.

He said everyone tested and decontaminated at the scene came back negative for any harmful substance, but Brito said it was still a scary situation to be around.

"I did get concerned when I saw that everyone else was wearing masks, but me. So that was concerning," she said.

The unidentified substance was sent to the health department. Cano said they should know what the powder is by Saturday.

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