It can be alarming to see a gas station in Massachusetts with yellow caution tape around it accompanied by a thick, white powdery substance blanketing the entire grounds.

A Shell station in Western Massachusetts had passersby scratching their heads on Wednesday morning.

An Alltown convenience store, Shell, and Dunkin' in Pittsfield, MA was covered in a white powdery dust which prompted response from local police and fire crews.

Why Some Massachusetts Gas Stations Are Covered In Powder


The White Powder Is The Fire Suppression System Discharge

It can look like a snow squall summer time, but it's actually the fire suppression system doing its job.

The powder is essentially baking soda. While not usually harmful, it is difficult to clean up. Normally, crews would vacuum it up but that may be made more challenging by the fact that light rain started falling on Friday afternoon.

If you look up at the canopy over the gas pumps, there are a bunch of nozzles pointing in every which way. These are the devices that deploy the dry fire suppressing chemical, similar to that of a fire extinguisher in your home.


These systems are made up of canisters full of a chemical agent that deploys when thermal detectors sense a fire. From there, it sends a signal to a control panel, sending another signal to another panel that sends compressed nitrogen to actuate the cylinders.

The baking soda like material can cause some irritation or maybe some temporary difficulty breathing, but it is not super harmful at all. It definitely can appear way worse than it is.

No word on what caused the fire suppression activation at this particular gas station in Pittsfield.

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Read on to explore the cost of gas over time and rediscover just how much a gallon was when you first started driving.

Gallery Credit: Sophia Crisafulli

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