Officials have released the cause of what led to a HAZMAT incident in Millinocket Tuesday evening.

Emergency crews from over a dozen local and state Emergency Services Agencies responded to a call regarding folks who had become ill from a substance in the air.

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According to a statement released by Millinocket Fire Chief and EMA Director John Cote and the Town of Millinocket, Bear Mace was to blame.

"On August 15, 2023, at approximately 5:04 pm, the Millinocket Fire Department was dispatched to respond to an incident at a Millinocket residence at 66 Colony Place where a hazardous chemical was released, causing injury to two individuals...Residents who were evacuated went to the Millinocket Fire Department where a temporary shelter was set up for the period of the incident. In the late morning hours, Public Safety Crews determined that the unknown chemical release was Bear Mace. Crews ventilated the area for a period of time until there were no hazards present."

Cote says that the residents who had to be temporarily evacuated were able to return to their homes early Wednesday morning.

According to the National Parks Service, Bear Mace uses similar ingredients as regular mace or pepper spray but at a greatly more concentrated level.

"Bear spray is a non-lethal deterrent designed to stop aggressive behavior in bears. Its use can reduce human injuries caused by bears and the number of bears killed by people in self-defense. Bear spray uses a fine cloud of Capsicum derivatives to temporarily reduce a bear's ability to breathe, see, and smell, giving you time to leave the area."

As you can imagine, if it's powerful enough to stun a bear, it's probably not the best for humans to breathe, either.

Under the "Tips For Use" section of their website, they do warn that cans of Bear Mace can explode if they get too hot.

"Bear spray can explode if it reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't store it in the passenger compartment of vehicles or near any heat sources.

Check out this video below to see it in action.

It's not out of the realm of possibility to come across a bear in Maine. Here are some other critters you might encounter in our state. 

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