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UPDATE: Munitions Risk Closes Part of Wildlife Area Again

By: Carrie Cline; John Griffith Email
By: Carrie Cline; John Griffith Email

UPDATE 7/30/10 @ 7 p.m.
PT. PLEASANT, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Another explosion could happen at a local hunting area at any time. That's the word after emergency crews discovered more unstable explosives at the site. We're talking about the infamous TNT area just outside of Point Pleasant.

That sight has long been a storage site for explosives. It's also a very popular wildlife management area. So, after one of those storage bunkers blew in May, it caused folks to wonder, how many other ticking time bombs are out there?

"We’re very concerned," Gary Sharp said.

Sharp is the District Game Biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. He was referring to an unexpected and unexplained explosion back in May of one of the storage bunkers there. It contained about 25,000 pounds of explosives, some believed to be old and unstable.

The McClintic Wildlife Management Area, operated by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, has long been a sanctuary for wildlife. That's made it a very popular hunting ground. But, for the last 40 years, about 200 of the more than 3,000 acres have also been home to a couple dozen bunkers leased to various tenants to store explosives.

Now, the DNR has called in the cavalry to check all of these facilities for unstable gunpowder.

"We don’t know how much there is. The U.S. Army says much of it is unstable," said Reed Cook, the deputy West Virginia Fire Marshal.

So, the DNR has shut down about 300 acres of land until the agencies can figure out what to do. There are three options: If they're unstable, burn the explosives on site. If they're stable, haul them away or redistribute them to other bunkers where there’s a little more breathing room.

On the bright side, the DNR says there are still plenty of places to hunt. The state fire marshal's office says the shutdown of the bunker area also includes a no-fly zone.



UPDATE 7/30/10 @ 11:25 a.m.
POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The old TNT site near Point Pleasant is causing more issues for Mason County.

The WV Department of Natural Resources has shut down 305 acres in the McClintic Wildlife Management Area as a safety precaution after a multi-agency task force discovered unstable explosives in the storage bunkers on the property.

The task force discovered unstable gunpowder late last week after executing a search warrant of all of the storage bunkers at the site.

One of the storage bunkers unexpectedly exploded back in mid-May after about 20 pounds of unstable gunpowder detonated. No one was injured in that blast.

After that, the DNR asked that the other storage bunkers be checked to make sure a similar explosion didn’t happen again. At least four more bunkers have been identified for also having unstable gunpowder. The WV State Fire Marshal’s Office has set up on site to secure the area and begin the process of disposal.

McClintic Wildlife Management Area is located five miles north of Pt. Pleasant. It contains roughly 3600 acres.

There are roughly 40 bunkers in the wildlife area, of those 25 are leased to about 6 different tennants.

WSAZ.com's Carrie Cline is headed to Point Pleasant and will have the latest information tonight at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/22/10 @ 2:50 p.m.
POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. (AP) -- The state has closed a section of the McClintic Wildlife Management Area where gunpowder stored in an underground bunker exploded in May.

The state Division of Natural Resources said Tuesday that the state Fire Marshal's Office ordered the closure because of the risk of fire or explosion.

DNR wildlife resources chief Curtis Taylor says the order applies to about 175 acres. The Mason County wildlife management area's remaining 3,665 acres remain open to the public.

During World War II, the U.S. Army built several concrete bunkers on the property to store munitions. The DNR now owns the bunkers and leases them for storage.

On May 17, gunpowder stored in one bunker exploded. No one was injured and an investigation is continuing.



UPDATE 5/17/10 @ 6:30 p.m.
POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A powerful explosion rocked the night sky over Mason County early Monday morning, powerful because it was fueled by ammunition.

We’re talking about an underground bunker at what's commonly known as the old TNT site near Point Pleasant.

That area is famous for another reason, it's where the legendary Mothman was supposedly spotted. But, while the circumstances surrounding this event are still puzzling, investigators are confident they'll solve this mystery sooner rather than later.

"It was so bright it turned night into day," Adam Frazier said. "I didn’t hear an explosion, but I saw the light."

He said he shot a light about a mile away from his home around 1 a.m. Monday.

"I shot it with my cell phone because I knew no one would believe me,” Frazier said.

An underground storage bunker was the source of the blast. Empty barrels and metal storage boxes were thrown everywhere, some landing as far as 100 feet away in a nearby swamp.

"The steel doors were thrown off, and the ceiling is made of 6-inch concrete that lifted up and then caved in," Gary Sharp with the Division of Natural Resources said. "The blast was pretty extensive."

The bunkers were built to store munitions during World War II. But now the Division of Natural Resources leases several dozen concrete bunkers in the McClintic Wildlife Management Area, also known as the old TNT site, to folks looking for unique storage.

"We haven’t had an explosion like this ever and we’ve been storing explosives for 40 years," Sharp said.

That bunker was leased by Richard King of High Performance Ammunitions, which is based in Pittsburgh. King also lives in Point Pleasant.

King said he was storing military issued propellant or gunpowder that he bought in surplus and then broke apart and sold. He says it's not as highly explosive as dynamite but -- when heated -- can build up a lot of pressure until it eventually explodes.

He said he's not sure what caused the gunpowder to explode and is awaiting the outcome of the investigation like everyone else. King also said, at one time, he was storing as much as 100,000 pounds of gunpowder.

At the time of the explosion, however, there was only about 15,000 to 20,000 pounds.



UPDATE 5/17/10 @ 2:45 p.m.
POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. (AP) -- A federal agent believes gunpowder caused an explosion that ripped through a Mason County underground bunker early this morning.

Paul Cross with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says a businessman was storing different types of gunpowder for resale in the bunker.

Over time and with heat, Cross says gunpowder can be deteriorate and become unstable.

The explosion was reported at 1:13 a.m. today in the McClintic Wildlife Management Area just north of Point Pleasant. No injuries were reported.

The Division of Natural Resources owns several concrete bunkers that were used to store explosives during World War II. DNR spokesman Hoy Murphy says the bunkers are leased out to businesses for storage



ORIGINAL STORY 5/17/10
POINT PLEASANT, W.Va (WSAZ) -- A bunker that housed munitions exploded early Monnday morning.

The bunker is located in the McClintic Wildlife Management Area, about 5 miles north of Point Pleasant.

The explosion was first reported around 1:15 a.m..

Point Pleasant Fire Chief, Jeremy Bryant tells WSAZ.com that the explosion left a roughly 75 yard debris field. Bryant says a fire caused by the explosion was out by the time firefighters got to the scene.

There were no injuries, and no indication right now how the storage bunker exploded.

911 Dispatchers say a company has been working to dispose of the munitions safely. There are a number of similar bunkers in the wildlife area.

DNR spokesman Hoy Murphy says the division owns several concrete
bunkers that are covered with earth and grass.

He says the bunkers were used for storing explosives during World War II but it's not immediately known what their current contents are.

The explosion is under investigation by the state fire marshal's
office and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for more information.


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