Fircrest City Hall locked down after discovery of suspicious substance

Staff writerNovember 8, 2013 

Some Fircrest city employees had a scare Friday afternoon when the city clerk opened a letter and a white powder poured out.

The Tacoma Fire Department hazardous materials team responded and quickly determined the substance was not dangerous, but didn’t say what it was.

Clerk Lisa Keely opened the letter addressed to the Fircrest Police Department, which was marked to her attention, just before noon. The handwritten envelope listed the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission in Olympia as the return address.

Authorities were called immediately after the powder spill, and City Manager Rick Rosenbladt locked down City Hall to prevent people from entering or leaving. Police Chief John Cheesman was allowed inside to assess the situation.

Keely and another woman were separated from the other employees. Seven people were evacuated and kept in a sectioned-off area in the back of the building while emergency crews tested the powder.

Rosenbladt and Cheesman said Friday’s scare was good practice for city staff.

“It was a good drill,” Rosenbladt said. “It’s not what we wanted to do, but I’m glad nothing happened.”

The letter was deemed suspicious because it was handwritten and because of the odd way it was addressed to both the police department and the city clerk, according Pierce County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ed Troyer.

Fircrest police will continue to investigate to try and determine where the letter came from, Cheesman said.

City Hall was closed about two hours for the incident.

Mayor David Viafore, who has been on the City Council for 20 years, said nothing like this has happened before in Fircrest.

“It’s a scary situation,” he said, as the incident was unfolding.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467

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