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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Anthrax scare rattles officials

Homeland Security’s Boise office evacuated

Express Staff Writer

Activities at the Office of Homeland Security at Boise‘s Gowen Field were disrupted for two hours Monday due to an anthrax scare. The building, which is also headquarters for the Idaho National Guard, was evacuated while the Boise Fire Department’s hazardous materials regional response unit worked to clear the building.

Anthrax is a lethal biological agent that has been used as a weapon in three different forms. The suspected source on Monday, however, was cleared as not being a biological agent, an FBI spokesman said.

Team members of a Boise Fire Department hazardous materials regional response unit disrobe after clearing the Boise office of the Department of Homeland Security of following anthrax exposure scare at Gowen Field. Photo by Lt. Col. Tim Marsano

Arriving on the scene, Battalion Chief Jeff LaBour of the fire department initially reported that a package with a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) return address was being investigated as the source of a powdery substance suspected to be anthrax.

Two fire department trailers equipped with hazardous materials suits, computers and chemical and biological agent analysis technology were enlisted to contain a suspicious package. The hazardous materials team checked the entire building and determined that the substance was drywall dust from a renovation project that had gotten on the package, the FBI said.

As part of the response protocol to a suspected exposure, about 40 people were evacuated from the building. People who thought they had been exposed to the agent because they had handled the package, were initially quarantined for screening. All were ultimately cleared of exposure.

The scare was the first such event at the airbase, said Idaho National Guard Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, who watched the response from the parking lot.

The Boise Fire Department’s two hazardous materials response units and others around the state receive funding from the Department of Defense.

"It was ironic that they came to help us," Marsano said.


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