Police in Cape Breton are warning that flares taken from a commercial property in North Sydney, N.S., this week can cause serious injury.  

The warning comes as orange smoke drove people from at least two buildings in Cape Breton.

A discharged flare was found under a stairwell at Memorial High School in Sydney Mines on Thursday morning.

The North Sydney Walmart was evacuated Tuesday afternoon.

flares

These flares and smoke signal are among a 'very large number' police say were stolen from a commercial building in North Sydney. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Cape Breton Regional Police said they believe the flares came from a former commercial business where "a very large number" of marine emergency flares were stored. 

Staff Sgt. Paul Muise said while the flares had been safely locked in a cabinet, thieves broke into the building and found them. Investigators learned about the break-in when officers stopped a vehicle from which flares were being allegedly discharged Wednesday night.

"Our concern now is how many more of these flares are out in the public and the danger that's posed because they are out there," Muise said.

flares

Police said they're unsure how many flares were stolen. (Cape Breton Regional Police)

When lit, the flares emit a significant amount of smoke, and heat capable of causing fire or serious injury.

"One of the flares that was found was blast flare," Muise said, "This type of flare, potentially if it goes off, and somebody's handling it, there could be loss of life, loss of limb. There may not be any out there but again, our concern is for the safety of the public."

Other stolen flares could include parachute flares, marine smoke flares or handheld flares.

Police said they're making arrangements to remove the flares discovered Thursday and have them destroyed. If residents find one, they should leave it where it is and contact police immediately, police said.