At least 150 people were evacuated from a state government building in Largo on Tuesday afternoon and three were taken to a local hospital with mild respiratory irritation, Largo officials said.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the symptoms, including whether they could have been caused by a man with a backup who entered and left the building shortly before workers began experiencing problems.
The Largo Fire Department received a call just before 4 p.m. that office workers were experiencing respiratory irritation at the Mary Grizzle Building, 11351 Ulmerton Road. The state building houses offices for the Department of Children and Families, Department of Corrections and Medicaid customer service.
At the scene, firefighters treated eight people for mild respiratory discomfort that included coughing, wheezing and choking, said Assistant Chief Doug Swartz, of the Largo Fire Department. Three people were taken to the hospital for further evaluation. No one was in serious condition, Swartz said.
Firefighters evacuated between 150 to 200 people in the building. The department also brought in its hazardous materials unit.
The eight employees who were treated at the scene worked for the Department of Children and Families. They told investigators a man had entered the office carrying an open backpack, then left and that they began experiencing symptoms shortly afterward, said Lt. Paul Amodeo, a spokesman for the Largo Police Department.
The man hasn’t been located. He is described as a white man who wearing a baseball cap and white T-shirt, Amodeo said.
“We are trying to track down everybody that was involved,” Amodeo said.
Swartz said some people in the office told firefighters that they were suspicious an irritant had been discharged into the air.
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