Bargain store still cleaning up after can of bear spray accidentally triggers

A week after a can of bear spray was accidentally triggered at Bargain Treasures, the after-effects linger on.

A week after a can of bear spray was accidentally triggered at Bargain Treasures, the after-effects linger on.

The can was wrapped up in a foam sleeve amongst a box of donations when it went off while being sorted on May 26. Ten volunteers, staff and customers were immediately evacuated and Red Deer Emergency Services called — and they sent in fire-medics in hazardous material suits.

“We’re just really grateful that no one was seriously injured,” said Trish McAllister, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, which oversees the volunteer-operated thrift shop at 5219 50th Ave.

“We had a couple of people with a little bit of eye or throat irritation, but everybody got out safely. That was the main concern.”

The toxic mess created by the powerful spray has kept the shop closed until a remediation company can come in and clean or remove damaged items.

“Because of the toxicity, we have been advised that (the shop) be well cleaned and some items will unfortunately have to be discarded,” said McAllister.

That is the best-case scenario. There is a small chance the damage will be so severe that the association’s insurance may not cover it all, which could mean closing the shop and starting anew somewhere else, said McAllister. The association hopes to know where it stands in the next few days.

Bear spray is oil-based and particularly potent. If it got into ceiling tiles and carpets and they need replacing, it could prove costly. The association has been told by remediation experts that if a contaminated item is not cleaned properly, the bear spray chemical can be reactivated.

“Even three days later going in there, we could feel it kind of tickling or burning and tingling on your skin. You couldn’t be in there very long without coughing.”

McAllister said the incident serves as a warning.

“I guess the message for people donating things is to be super, super careful,” she said.

Bargain Treasures has served as a volunteer opportunity for hundreds of local people through the mental health association over the last 20 years.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com