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December 20, 2014

Damage from Wednesday’s blast reportedly widespread, says state Fire Marshal's Office

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Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014 6:39 pm | Updated: 6:48 pm, Fri Jul 25, 2014.

Local, state and federal authorities on Friday continued investigating an explosion Wednesday in the Angel community near Jacksonville.

State officials say residents in a wide area around the explosion have reported damage to their homes, but the CEO of the company responsible for the blast says the incident could not have caused any damage.

The blast was caused by detonation of explosive material by Pennsylvania-based Tripwire Operations Group, which trains law enforcement agencies to deal with explosives and firearms, in addition to assisting in the training of explosive detection dogs.

Residents near an old rock quarry on Angel Drive near Jacksonville, the site of the later explosion, were unaware the blast would occur.

Ryan Morris, the CEO of Pennsylvania-based Tripwire Operations, told The Star on Thursday that the blast was necessary to safely dispose of unsafe explosives after a day of training.

A Star photographer on assignment earlier on Wednesday had photographed Tripwire staff setting explosions at McClellan as part of a training exercise for bomb-detecting dogs.

Steve Holmes, spokesman for the Alabama Fire Marshal's Office, said by phone Friday that investigators have asked Morris to turn over all the company’s records regarding explosive materials.

“The investigation is ongoing. There was a lot of property damage,” Holmes said.

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office is also looking into the matter.

Sheriff Larry Amerson said Friday that investigators were trying to get questions answered for the community.

“We continue to seek answers … as to exactly the nature of the explosion and to ensure that all relevant procedures were followed.”

Cloud cover in the area Wednesday could have contributed to the extent of the damage reported, Holmes said. Clouds can hold the pressure from an explosion down, spreading it out over a large area rather than allowing to send energy upward, he said.

It was still unclear to state Fire Marshal investigators Friday what sort of explosive material was detonated, Holmes said. Morris declined to tell a reporter Thursday what type of material his company detonated, but said it was “high explosives.”

Morris on Thursday told The Star that homes in the area could not have been damaged by the blast. Told Friday that the Alabama Fire Marshal's Office believes the damage to homes is much more widespread than at first thought, Morris again said the damage could not have been from the blast.

“No. Absolutely not,” Morris said. “We do this all over the country. Typically, we’ll get complaints and 99.9 percent of the time it’s proven they had existing damage.”

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