Seized powered fentanyl. Photo via U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Baltimore County police evacuated their entire Woodlawn precinct Thursday night after three officers fell ill from coming into contact with heroin’s more potent cousin, fentanyl.

The ordeal began after police allegedly found narcotics during a traffic stop. An officer arrested two suspects and went back to the precinct in Woodlawn to process their paperwork.

There, he an another officer “started to become ill after locating a white powdered substance,” the department said in a release. While other officers and medics were treating them, a third officer fell ill. All three were transported to a local hospital, treated and subsequently released.

Hazmat teams from the county fire department were called to the scene. They determined the white powder was fentanyl, a synthetic opioid said to be up to 50 times more potent than heroin.

Police evacuated the precinct, which remained closed on Friday morning. The department said around 8:40 a.m. that it expected to reopen the building soon.

First responders have run into danger with fentanyl as use of the drug grows more widespread. Three EMS responders and a sheriff’s deputy in Harford County were hospitalized in March while responding to an overdose call, and a police officer in Ohio accidentally overdosed that same month after accidentally wiping some of the powder off of his shirt with his bare hand.

Fentanyl was largely responsible for the spike in state-logged fatal drug overdoses this year, accounting for seven in 10 OD deaths during the first six months of 2017. Fentanyl-related fatalities jumped from 579 in the first half of 2016 to 799 in the first half of 2017.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...