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Blasting compound detonated at South Transfer Station

They say in life and in dynamite, timing is everything.

Such was the case Wednesday in Park Rapids.

In a case of unfortunate timing, a jar of blasting compound was detonated at the South Transfer Station just after 4 p.m.

Moments after that a fire call came in. A house downtown was on fire.

The two incidents weren't related. But the blast was heard throughout the city and an event that began earlier in the day became linked to one much later.

It all began Wednesday morning.

"Some guy brought in a jar of black stuff and handed it to one of my staff and as he was walking away they asked what it was and he says, 'I believe it's blasting compound,'" explained solid waste superintendent Vern Massie.

"Well, there they stood holding it," he added. "So they called me and wanted to know what to do with it and I said, 'You set it down far from somebody and call the sheriff's office.'

"They came out and they were hesitant as to exactly what it was. So we called our haz waste collector and described to them what it was and they said, 'You'd better call the bomb squad,' so the bomb squad came up from Brainerd.

"They looked at it and determined it was probably what the guy said it was and rather than packing it up and taking it somewhere they decided to destroy it on site."

That's when the afternoon blast occurred on the southeast section of town.

Nearby at the Enterprise, employees felt the full force of the detonation. When the police scanner announced the fire moments later, everyone drew what seemed to be a natural conclusion: An explosion had caused the fire.

"I heard about (the fire) last night when I came into town," Massie said. "People said 'her house blew up and we felt the explosion.'

"Timing is everything so the rumor mill had her house exploding," Massie said.

Firefighters on the scene were initially perplexed, too, maintaining there was no explosion.

"I heard it at the scene from one of the police officers," said Park Rapids Fire Chief Donn Hoffman. "Yeah, I guess the timing wasn't the best."

"It was fortunate, I guess, the individual gave it to our staff rather than throwing it into the waste stream," Massie said.

"On the other hand, I think the stuff was becoming very unstable. We decided to err on the side of safety and took care of it that way. We were running around trying to figure out what to do with this stuff and keep as many people away from it as we could," Massie said.

The bomb squad was called in two years ago when a Hubbard County woman brought an unexploded grenade to the Law Enforcement Center that had been found on her property. The Crow Wing Crow Wing County squad's explosion-proof vehicle hauled the grenade away.

"It could have been a lot worse, I guess," Massie said. "We get a little excitement once in awhile."

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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