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Charles Town Wal-Mart evacuated after callers report breathing problems

April 28, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - About 150 people were evacuated from the Wal-Mart along U.S. 340 north of Charles Town Sunday night after two people inside reported having respiratory problems, a fire official said.

Emergency officials sampled the air inside the store but detected no problems, said Ed Smith, chief of Independent Fire Co.

It is possible the two people smelled an odor that was common in the store but odd to them, Smith said.

The store was closed about 8 p.m. but was expected to reopen about 10 p.m., according to Smith.

Smith said 911 dispatchers received calls from the two individuals about 7:58 p.m.

After Wal-Mart officials evacuated the store, rescue officials did a quick search of the building to make sure no one else was inside, Smith said.

Officials waited for a hazardous materials unit from Mount Weather (Va.) Fire & Rescue to arrive and test the air in the building.

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Air testing was done in the store's photography lab and children's area because officials thought those were the areas where problems might have existed, Smith said.

Emergency officials turned control of the building back over to Wal-Mart officials about 9:30 p.m. after nothing unusual was detected, Smith said.

The two individuals who reported having respiratory problems left the store after calling authorities but did not go to the hospital, Smith said.

Officials later made contact with one of the individuals, Smith said.

One of the people had experience in hazardous materials, which caused emergency officials to put more credence in the calls to 911, Smith said.

Procedures are conducted in the store nightly, such as changing chemicals in the photo lab, and it is possible the two people smelled an odor from the lab and were not familiar with it, Smith said.

Smith said he noticed a sweet odor when he approached the entrance of the store, but he said that could have been an air freshener.

Nixy Osorio said she was in a checkout line when cashiers began telling customers they had to leave the store.

Osorio said in the midst of the excitement, she left some items in the store.

"I was worried," Osorio said.

Osorio said she did not smell any odd odors or see anyone having medical trouble.

Firefighters from Citizens, Independent and Friendship fire companies responded.

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