“Suspicious substance” came from B’ham running group that uses flour to mark trail

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – An investigation into a potentially hazardous situation took an unusual turn Wednesday morning.

Thirteen fire engines and 45 emergency personnel engaged in a full hazmat response on 2nd Avenue North in response to a “suspicious substance” found on the sidewalk.

8E54FC56ECD247B1BC34813B0A49545B“You’ll see one of our ladder trucks set up so that if this incident were to escalate,” Battalion Chief Tim Love said, “We have the capability to do mass-decontamination by the use of the aerial device.”

That wasn’t necessary. Testing proved the powder was harmless. The culprits: The Vulcan Hash House Harriers.

They’re runners who mark their trails with flour. It’s a scavenger hunt of sorts. Tracy Pool ran with the group for several years.

“Basically what people are doing, they’re following a trail that a hasher will lay, a hare as they call it,” Pool said. “As he’s putting down trail, the pack is supposed to read the trail and find the end of the run.”

The “hasher” uses chalk, or in this case, flour to mark the trail. The Vulcan Hash House Harriers ran through downtown Birmingham Tuesday evening and marked their trail with powder according to leader Jonathan Bailey.

Apparently, this isn’t the first time hashers have caught heat.

“One time I was laying a trail out in Leeds,” Pool said, “And I let the police know because someone thought that it was actually witchcraft.”

Rogue Tavern lost some of its lunch crowd because of the 2nd Ave. debacle. The owner, Travis McGriff, has a tip for these hashers.

“Maybe start using a colored powder of some sort,” McGriff said, “Or some chalk. Chalk’s great. We love chalk.”

Tuesday night’s run through downtown was a part of a wedding celebration for a couple in the running group. Bailey said the group will use chalk on future runs as a result of this mix-up.

2014 WIAT-TV CBS42

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