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Dumped dynamite wasn't a threat

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

When disposing of dangerous, and possibly illegal, dynamite, it's normally preferable to call the bomb squad.

Sticking two explosive sticks into a Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey bag and dropping it off, unannounced, at a fire station is not the approved disposal method. But that's what happened this weekend.

"It was a disposal operation, basically," said Maj. Tom Israel, commander of the Clayton County Police Department's Bomb Squad. "But it would have been better if they'd called the police department."

A Clayton County firefighter discovered the two red sticks -- Emutrech brand explosives designed for blasting rock in a quarry -- in a bag by the garbage at about 4 p.m,. Sunday.

According to police, he thought the whiskey bag was litter and went to throw it away. When the firefighter realized what he was looking like, he called 911.

The Walt Stephens Road fire station, No. 5, was evacuated for about three hours, as the bomb squad "rendered it safe," Israel said.

There was never any threat called in to the station or implied by the way the bag was discarded. The major believes this wasn't an act of terrorism or violence. He thinks someone was trying to get rid of the explosives, and dumped them at the fire station.

"They knew they needed to get rid of it and didn't know how," Israel said. "It could be something where they had it and were like, 'Uh oh, I better get rid of this, but I don't want to get in trouble.'"

Dynamite is a "class 3" explosive," and it's not legal to own it without a permit and license. The dynamite was beginning to destabilize, Israel said. Dynamite "sweats," as it ages, and the nitroglycerin crystallizes on the outside of the stick, becoming unstable and more dangerous.

"This was older stuff," Israel said. "When older dynamite crystallizes, it's extremely unstable. This stuff was safe to handle, however we always err on the side of the caution."

The county's bomb squad responded and remotely counter-charged the explosives, "rendering them safe," Israel said. No one was ever in any danger, but the police department prefers people call them, in cases of aging explosives.

"What would have happened if a small child or a teenager got a hold of it, or somebody who had no idea what they were doing got a hold of it?" Israel said.