Mariposa & Yosemite

Modesto office of U.S. Rep. Radanovich evacuated in anthrax scare

Authorities are investigating an anthrax scare at the Modesto office of Congressman George Radanovich, R-Mariposa. A receptionist said the office received in the mail an envelope containing a smaller package labeled "anthrax."

The office was evacuated about 10 a.m.

Police, fire, ambulances and a hazardous materials team are at the office on the city's northwest side, at the intersection of Coffee Road and Sylvan Avenue.

Fire battalion Chief Huge Patino said once all members of the hazardous materials team arrive, they will put the package in a container, then hand it over to the FBI. The agents will take the package to a crime lab for analysis, Patino said. He did not know how long the analysis will take.

A worker from a nearby business said no other offices have been evacuated. Corey Gales, who works in the same building as Radanovich’s office, said the two members of Radanovich’s staff who were on duty have been isolated by law enforcement authorities in the office complex parking lot.

Although no one was hurt, the workers, both women, will be taken to a hospital for a precautionary examination, Patino said.

The receptionist, who did not wish to be identified, said the supposed anthrax package was about the size of a sugar packet.

Radanovich represents California's 19th Congressional District, which stretches from parts of Modesto and neighboring towns into the Sierra foothills,Madera County and parts of Fresno.

Anthrax is a highly toxic and potentially lethal substance. Federal authorities last month began investigating 50 letters containing what turned out to be harmless white powder that had been sent banks across the country.

In 2001, several Congressional staff members in Washington, D.C., were exposed to anthrax that had been sent in the mail. News organizations also received anthrax packages that year. Five people died.