Berkeley police station was evacuated Friday afternoon after an Anthrax scare

Update, 5:00pm: Berkeleyside’s Lance Knobel filed this report from Berkeley Police station:

A white envelope containing a suspicious white powder was opened at the BPD this afternoon at 2:17 pm leading to an evacuation of part of the public safety building and a dispatch of specially trained hazmat teams from BFD and Alameda Fire Department. The hazmat teams determined that the powder was a food paste product and the all-clear was given to the building at 4:00 pm this afternoon.

The Berkeley envelope was one of at least four similar incidents today — the others were in Hayward, San Leandro and Union City. Berkeley has launched a criminal investigation and the FBI has been notified and will be involved in the investigation.

The envelope was received as part of the ordinary mail delivery and was opened by a female member of the professional staff who worked at the front counter. “She recognized the need for caution and concern right away. She alerted her chain of command,” said BPD Sgt Mary Kusmiss.

The police notified the fire department and they conducted a partial evacuation of the public safety building. Both the ground floor and the basement were evacuated. People on the upper floor sheltered in place. Public works shut down the ATAT (ie, heating, air con) system and approximately 40 employees were evacuated from the building. The jail was not evacuated, but BPD was prepared to do so if necessary.

The BFD hazmat specialists entered the building and they received support from the Alameda Fire Department hazmat specialists. Using specialist equipment, which is called a sensor IR, they were able to identify the powder as harmless.

According to Deputy Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong, the sensor IR was recently acquired with funding provided by UASI. “The hazmat specialists go through 280 hours of training, that goes through bio-hazards, radio-hazards, and chemical hazards,” he said.

According to Sgt Kusmiss, further details about the envelope are not being made public because it is the subject of a criminal investigation.

Update, 4:40pmKTVU News reports that a suspicious package was found at San Leandro police station this afternoon. A hazardous materials team and firefighters arrived at the San Leandro police station at around 1:45 p.m., Alameda County fire spokeswoman Aisha Knowles said. It is not known if this is connected to the incidents at BPD and Hayward.

Original story: The Berkeley Police Department was evacuated this afternoon following an anthrax scare, according to a witness.

At around 2:30pm the witness was told that someone had opened an envelope in the building and been concerned after finding white powder. The Berkeley Fire Department went to the scene at about 2:30pm. They entered the police station at around 2:55pm with protective masks.

In Hayward this morning a hazardous materials team determined a white powdery substance found in an envelope there was not anthrax, according to a Bay City News report. Authorities evacuated the first floor of the Police Department there at about 10 a.m. after a white powdery substance was detected in an envelope, fire Capt. Thor Poulsen said.

A woman clerk in her mid 30s received an envelope with no return address delivered by the U.S. Postal Service and detected a white powdery substance, Poulsen said. Some of the substance then leaked out, he said.

A hazmat team retrieved a sample and tested it for anthrax or any lethal substance, Poulsen said. Tests for anthrax came up negative and the substance is not a lethal dosage, he said.

It is believed the Berkeley police station jail was put on lock-down. BPD declared all areas of the station clear apart from the records department just before 4:00pm.

We will report more as the story develops.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...