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So far, nobody's saying just what it was that the package of money was contaminated with, but it disrupted the bank

DAVID F. ASHTON - Wearing breathing apparatus, gloves and a full turnout suit, this firefighter used an electronic sniffer to detect the noxious chemicals in the contaminated package of cash. Those who were there told THE BEE that when the Bank of America branch in Eastport Plaza got ready to open, on the Tuesday morning of September 28, somebody opened a plastic packet of cash – and immediately those near it began to feel a bit sick. "Initially an AMR ambulance was dispatched to the ban,k due to the report of a sick person," confirmed PF&R Public Information Officer Terry Foster.

At 10:25 a.m. that morning, Portland Fire and Rescue crews arrived to check it out, and a HazMat (hazardous materials) team from the Portland Fire Bureau showed up with them.

Out of an abundance of caution, PF&R routinely sends HazMat Teams to investigate any incident where people are suspected of being in contact with chemicals or other substances which could make people ill – but, usually, no such hazards are located.

This time, though, they determined that the health threat was real.

Outside the bank, two employees were provided with white protective "bunny suits" with booties to wear. One of them was checked out by paramedics in an ambulance, and eventually was released – as more PF&R crewmembers arrived at the scene.

"Upon further questions by the dispatcher, and possibility of multiple patients in the bank, they upgraded the call by adding fire responders," Foster told THE BEE.

And the bank, having just opened before the incident began, was promptly evacuated. "A total of three patients were treated at the scene; one person was taken to a local hospital for medical evaluation and possible treatment," Foster reported.

As the incident unfolded, a total of nine PF&R units gathered at the bank, including PF&R "HazMat Unit 7" from the Mill Park Station.

"Portland Fire's HazMat team responded, and took all precautions," Foster said. "The HazMat team found that the money had trace amounts of a chemical irritant," Foster informed.

HazMat determined that the amount of thechemical on the money, and on things that came in contact with it, was in small enough amounts that the bank could handle the cleanup by itself, Foster added. Just what that chemical irritant was has not yet been disclosed. For a sense of the brief emergency and how it was handled, here's a brief BEE video:

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