SKOWHEGAN – One person was taken to a local hospital Sunday and several others were examined at the scene after a giant cloud of fire-suppression powder was released at the Irving Circle K station on Madison Avenue, which is also Route 201.

The powerful plume, emitted from about 50 hoses installed in the roof of the fuel-pumping area, covered vehicles, people and the parking lot with a coating of white powder. The white-out obscured the busy station from view and briefly closed the road to traffic.

The cloud traveled to the Tractor Supply shopping center across the road, then dissipated.

Fire crews, police, emergency medical personnel and an ambulance from Redington-Fairview General Hospital were sent to the scene about 12:30 p.m.

There was no fire, and station managers were unwilling to comment on what might have happened.

Skowhegan Fire Chief Tom Keene said the chemical was a nontoxic compound that can cause mild eye and throat irritation but is not life-threatening.

“It was a dry chemical — ABC powder, used in dry-powder extinguishers,” Keene said. “It’s mostly a sodium bicarbonate. It can cause an irritation to the respiratory system.”

Keene said one woman was taken to the hospital by ambulance and two others went by private vehicle, all with respiratory complaints.

He said he spoke with a technician from the fire extinguisher company, who could not say how or why the powder was released.

“He wouldn’t venture a guess. There was no fire; there was nothing there to trigger it, so it had to be some type of malfunction,” Keene said.

Chancellor Burris of Skowhegan said he and his family and some friends were gassing up their all-terrain vehicles for a trip to Solon when the powder suddenly shot from the hoses. He said his two young children, ages 2 and 10 months, and another 10-month-old child were exposed to the stuff but did not appear to suffer any effects.

They were examined at the scene, but Burris said they would go to the hospital to be checked as a precaution.

“I knew that the chemical sucks the oxygen out of the air, so I covered her up with a sweatshirt,” he said of his young daughter. “New rule for gassing up: Close the windows.”

The pump areas of the service station were closed after the incident. Keene said a crew from Safe Harbors of Portland was on its way to do a cleanup.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or:

dharlow@centralmaine.com