Iron County Sheriff: Man admits building cabins, ammo bunker on public land; charges, fees pending

A burned cabin. Photo: Iron County

IRON COUNTY, Nov. 30, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — A Parowan man is facing possible charges and restitution fees after a multi-agency effort to dismantle a series of cabins and bunkers he built illegally on public land in Iron County, and stocked with firearms and food.

Information released Thursday by the Iron County Sheriff’s Office revealed that the unnamed suspect later admitted to building ” … approximately seven or eight such cabin structures and bunkers hidden throughout the area,” the release says, “and that most are supplied with food-storage, firearms, and ammunition, and he had built the shelters and storage caches over course of several years.”

The initial cabin and cache were discovered in June by firefighters battling the Brian Head wildfire. They reportedly heard a popping sound that led them to a cache of exploding ammunition and a cabin in the Cedar Mountain area of Iron County.

On the day of the discovery, the release says, once the popping sound stopped, firefighters hiked to the area and found a cabin burned to the ground and a bunker.

“Inside the bunker, firefighters found a box of what appeared to be novelty hand-grenades, which had been altered, by drilling-out the bottoms and plugging the drilled holes with threaded, galvanized pipe plugs,” the statement says.

“Firefighters also saw what appeared to be explosive powder, fuses, and ammunition. Also in the bunker was a large number of boxes and containers which were being used as food storage.”

The Sheriff’s Office contacted the Washington County Bomb Squad, and the squad requested assistance from the FBI’s Salt Lake City division Special Agent Bomb Technicians.

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After briefing officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service, a plan came together to use a Utah Highway Patrol’s helicopter to access and assess the location.

On June 30, officers executed their plans, with some officers going to the location of the bunker by way of the UHP helicopter, and some going to a residence in Parowan.

“Officers responding to Parowan were able to locate the person of interest at his residence, and an interview was conducted,” the ICSO statement says. “During the interview the person was cooperative and eventually admitted to officers the bunker and burned-down cabin were his; and he had indeed purchased, drilled-out, and threaded the novelty hand- grenades. The person also told officers the hand grenades were not an explosive hazard to firefighters or officers responding to the location.”

Bomb squad technicians found the hand-grenades to be inert, some with fuses and some without. All were destroyed.

All structures were on land managed by the Forest Service and owned and managed by the Utah State Institutional Trust Land.

When the investigation is completed, the statement said, ” … a case will be presented to the Iron County Attorney, and to the Utah United States Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges, and potential restitution for the cost of removal of the burned debris and property.”

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