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Grocery shopping became more of a hassle than normal for several shoppers at City Market Friday, Aug. 1, after several people reported coughing and irritation with their eyes and noses, forcing the evacuation of the store for about an hour.
Shortly after 4 p.m. on Aug. 1, several shoppers at the store began complaining about something in the air causing irritation to their throats, noses and eyes and making them cough, reported Officer Floyd Capistrant of the Pagosa Springs Police Department and Firefighter and Communications Specialist David Montoya of the Pagosa Fire Protection District.
Capistrant reported that he knew of six people affected. Many of those affected reported relief upon leaving the store.
Upon the arrival of emergency personnel, the store was evacuated in order for the PFPD to test the area, and it remained closed for about an hour.
To test for contaminants, Montoya said isolation zones were set up and entry teams were formed. The first entry team monitored the air using gas meters, with no abnormal results.
After re-evaluating the situation, another entry team went in with only respiratory protectors to check for skin irritation — again with no abnormal results, Montoya said.
In the end, Montoya said the PFPD was unable to find any odors or reason for the complaints.
Capistrant noted that a speculated cause is pepper spray, though that had not been confirmed, with Montoya adding there was nothing found to even speculate upon from the PFPD’s standpoint.
After the PFPD’s tests came back with normal results, the store was ventilated for 15-20 minutes before employees were allowed to re-enter.
With no additional complaints, the store was reopened to customers 15 minutes later, Montoya said.
Twenty PFPD personnel responded to the scene with six pieces of equipment, Montoya noted.
Capistrant noted that City Market is reviewing surveillance video for a possible cause, but that it was unlikely anyone would face criminal charges unless evidence surfaced indicating it was an intentional criminal act.