Ohio fire chief sparks powder scare

The hazardous materials team in Mahoning County, Ohio, was recently called to investigate two biological threats at two local fire departments.

The Boardman Fire Department and the Western Reserve Joint Fire District main stations each received an envelope through the mail containing a granular substance, only to learn later that it was sand sent by the head of the fire department in the neighboring town of Sebring, according to Vindy.com.

Sebring Fire Chief James Cannell said he sends his friends sand every year he goes on vacation to the beach.

"I've done this for years," Cannell said, Vindy.com reports. "I go to Ocean City, Maryland, and I send the sand back. They get this envelope, the sand falls on their desk, and they think of me."

The fire departments in neighboring Austintown and Canfield were also sent sand-filled envelopes but were aware of the tradition.

The letters did not have a return address and contained no explanation, just the sand, which wary firemen thought might be a biological threat.

"[Boardman Fire Chief] George [Brown] and I were newly added guys to the chiefs' list this year, but there was no return address and no note," Western Reserve Joint District Fire Chief David C. Comstock said, Vindy.com reports. "So the question asked by us was: What do Boardman and Poland have in common? It was dated July 10, so to put things in perspective that was mailed right after we each had the president visit."

The fire chiefs who received the envelopes called nearby fire stations approximately an hour after receiving the envelopes, at which point they learned of the tradition. Comstock said it was, nonetheless, good to see local safety services respond quickly and efficiently.