Carson residents scared by anthrax threat

Larry Berg looks at powder through a magnify glass found in a box of newly opened checks. Photo by Brian Corley

Larry Berg looks at powder through a magnify glass found in a box of newly opened checks. Photo by Brian Corley

Carson City firefighters evacuated five Ridgecrest Drive residents from their home Friday afternoon after the family was exposed to an unknown, powdery substance.

The family was taken to Carson-Tahoe Hospital as a precautionary measure in light of Friday's anthrax alert in Reno and recent anthrax cases in media outlets in Florida and New York. The names and conditions of the five were not released Friday evening.

Fire crews responded to 2513 Ridgecrest Dr. around 4:30 p.m. after a family member found the powdery substance in a package.

"It's probably nothing, but in light of what's going on, we want to do some testing in the house," Fire Captain Bob Schreihans said before the family was evacuated.

All five had to shower and change their clothes before they were allowed out of the house. They spent around an hour in the front yard before they were taken by ambulance to the hospital. The sheriff's deputy who first responded to the call will be tested as well, Sheriff's Deputy Scott Burau said.

Carson City firefighters -- 11 of the 15 on duty Friday -- spent just over three hours on the site. Schreihans said the hazardous material crew located a box of checks containing the unknown substance. It will be sent to a state lab in Reno for testing and analysis, and results should be returned within 24 hours, Burau said.

Carson City sheriff's deputies responded to two similar incidents Friday. Employees at KPTL Radio evacuated their building because of a suspicious letter. Burau said it was a letter from a listener with music requests.

Another person brought a letter from Florida with no return address to the Sheriff's Department on Friday. There was nothing in the envelope, Burau said.

"Ridgecrest is something we need to work with," he said. "I think we need to be aware and take this case seriously. We have a case in Reno. The possibility is ever present."

The tan and brick house was cordoned off with yellow police tape. Uncertain of what was happening, neighbors crowded into each other's yards and on sidewalks close to the home.

"I thought it was my house," Amber Fultz, 16, said. "I'm very nervous. I live next door to all this."

Curious children skipped up the street, giggling at all the attention on the neighborhood. A couple of neighbors started an impromptu block party with a case of Budweiser as neighboring families watched firefighters work.

"It's pretty scary, having it happen on your street," Rhonda Grisamore said. "I work at the airport and they issued an alert today, and then you come home to find this in your yard. When it's up close and personal, you take it seriously.

"They've said there's a 99.9 percent chance it's nothing, but there's a potential for danger."

Her husband, Jeff, said arriving home to find fire and rescue teams in his front yard, he had no inkling it was a "possible terrorist problem."

"Come to find out my neighbor is a potential anthrax victim," he said.

Burau said police response is determined by the number of calls received. While people must continue to be wary, they need to be careful about overreacting.

"I don't think people are doing anything wrong," he said. "They're reacting and responding to a serious threat in our country.

"With any suspicious activity, we encourage people to call us. When you have something suspicious, call us. Give as much information as possible so we can accurately respond to your call. We need to have as much information up front as possible. That will determine or gauge our response."

Burau said in light of Friday's anthrax scare, city officials from the sheriff, fire and environmental health department worked with hospital officials and City Manager John Berkich to develop a more measured strategy to deal with similar cases in the future.

"We have developed a rather substantial plan among public service entities," Burau said. If we come across an unknown substance, we can handle the situation."

--Nevada Appeal writers Kurt Hildebrand and Jim Scripps contributed to this report.


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