Moab blows explosives detonations, with apologies

Moab City Police car. Photo: Moab City Police/Facebook

MOAB, Utah, Feb. 4, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — Moab officials’ handling of the detonation of old mining explosives has not resonated well with all residents.

Agencies were presented with the question of what to do when the vintage explosives were discovered. The find came Thursday, and the Utah County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad was contacted, but couldn’t make it for disposal duty until Friday afternoon.

As the drama unfolded on social media, officials decided to be tight-lipped.

“The Moab Valley Fire Department and its partners will be disposing of found property,” the department announced around 10 a.m. Friday.

“The disposal will take place on the Law Enforcement gun range near the area of Stocks Drive and Sunny Acres today, February 3rd.

“The nature of this work will cause concussive noises that may be heard for great distances. Please be mindful in using the 911 emergency system to report any loud noises for the day.”

The Grand County Sheriff’s Office and the Moab Police Department posted the fire department’s alert on their pages within the next two hours without comment beyond the police department saying, “Please read this announcement. There will be loud booms from the gun range today.”

Utah County’s bomb crew then detonated the vintage explosives, apparently around noon, with reaction showing up in replies to the various agencies’ online alerts within an hour.

“As someone who doesn’t follow MVFD or MPD on Facebook and lives relatively close, my whole house was shaking and it sounded like bombs were being dropped,” wrote one shaken resident.

“I looked out and saw smoke. Rushed to get my dogs inside and called 911. That was terrifying and really irresponsible to think a Facebook post would suffice as notice. Do better.”

“It’s shaking my whole house,” wrote another. “I’m old and almost had a heart attack.”

“Ridiculous place to have just done that,” wrote yet another. “Not cool. My entire neighborhood was outside scared and worried their windows would bust. Pipelines, rockslides, homes, wtf.”

Those were among the most critical of replies, which were roughly balanced pro and con. But by 6 p.m. Friday, the fire department issued an explanation, with apologies.

“On Thursday, February 2nd, Moab Valley Fire Department was dispatched to the discovery of old undetonated mining explosives. Due to the nature of the ordnance, a timely disposal was necessary. Moab Fire cordoned off the area and immediately contacted the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad who arrived in Moab for disposal on the afternoon of Friday, February 3rd.

“Due to the pressing nature of the situation and need for timely disposal, social media was used to inform the public. In the interest of public safety, exact details of the disposal could not be made available.

“Moab Fire apologizes for any distress disposal of the ordnance may have caused.

“In the future we will do our best to utilize additional methods of alerting the public when necessary including radio and appropriate alert systems. We will continue to strive to keep the public informed while also balancing the need for public safety.”

By Saturday morning the response online was overwhelmingly supportive of the fire department’s contrition. Critics had retired, and all apparently was forgiven, as Samantha Bonsack offered: “Moab Valley Fire Department — Thanks for providing the public with this explanation. And special thanks to your driver who transported explosives for detonation over our bumpy roads, glad it all turned out well.”


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