VACAVILLE — What started out Friday afternoon as a puff of smoke and a dusting of a white powder on a mailbox ended four hours later with three blocks cordoned off and more than a dozen police, firefighters and other first responders and tons of their gear being used to determine the mailbox had been doused with a powder used in baking.
The full-blown, assume-the-worst, take-no-chances procedural hazardous materials response began with a nearby resident coming home around 4:30 p.m. and seeing smoke coming from the metal cluster mailbox cube on Woodcrest Drive. The cluster mailbox was also covered with powder.
He called police, who after checking out the mailbox called the Fire Department. Streets were blocked off and then soon crowded with fire trucks.
After about an hour, it was decided that a postal inspector needed to get involved and, more importantly, a hazmat team from Travis Air Force Base accompanied by the Solano interagency team and the county’s Office of Emergency Services would join together in solving the powder puzzle. Each agency brought out their own huge trucks equipped for myriad disasters.
It was 7:30 p.m., three hours into the incident, before specialists starting gearing up 30 yards away from the mailbox, putting on heavy full-body garb along with oxygen tanks and respirators.
Two of the team members walked up to the mailbox and spent several minutes scrutinizing it before collecting a few samples, which they took to a lab in one of the trucks.
Several minutes later, shortly before 8:30 p.m., the miniscule chance of crime or terrorist act dropped to zero with lab analyses concluding the powder was largely comprised of calcium carbonate.
Crime scene tape quickly came down and the elaborate gear set up for the worst-case scenarios was loaded back up into the trucks, calling an end to the atypical Friday night.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.