The executive of a company that trains law enforcement in the use of explosives said his firm is responsible for a blast Wednesday that frightened residents in the Angel community near Jacksonville.
That blast remained under investigation Thursday by federal, state and local agencies.
Ryan Morris, the CEO of Pennsylvania-based Tripwire Operations Group, which trains law enforcement in explosives and firearms, said the blast in an old rock quarry on Angel Drive was necessary to safely dispose of unsafe explosives.
“It was a law enforcement training event. At the end of the day, some of the explosive material had to be destroyed on site,” Morris said.
Pam Howard, who lives on Hickory Lane in the Angel community, said the explosion broke a front window in her home.
“My husband and I were sitting there, and there was a huge explosion. Neighbors had mirrors and photos blow off their walls,” Howard said.
Howard said the explosion happened between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday, but said it wasn’t the first she’s heard in the area in recent weeks. Howard, who works from home, said Wednesday’s was the fourth explosion she’d heard in July. By far Wednesday’s was more powerful, however, she said.
“Last night was just ridiculous,” Howard said.
Morris would not say what type or how much explosives were detonated Wednesday, but said they were “high explosives.”
Morris said thatcompany personnel inspected the explosives and determined it would not be safe to try to move them. The company decided to detonate the material on site instead, Morris said.
Asked about the damage residents reported they suspect was caused by the explosion, Morris said that likelihood is “scientifically impossible” because of the type and amount of explosive used, and because the blast happened more than 2,000 feet from the nearest residence.
“We took every precaution to not cause harm. We didn’t mean to cause any public alarm. We were acting in the best interest of the public,” Morris said.
Morris said his company is licensed to do such training in Alabama, but because of complaints from local homeowners the company will no longer train in the quarry.
“We will not return to that location again. We will stick to McClellan,” Morris said.
Donna Eady lives one home north of the entrance to that quarry. Eady said Wednesday’s blast, which she also believes came from the quarry, opened her front door. She’s heard similar, smaller explosions recently, but like Howard, Eady said “there hasn’t been anything compared to that.”
Attempts to reach the owner of the quarry Thursday were unsuccessful. An entrance to the quarry was gated and locked Thursday afternoon.
“We have had reports of damage,” said Steve Holmes, spokesman for the Alabama Fire Marshal's Office.
Holmes said State Fire Marshal's Office investigators were investigating the incident.
“The investigation is ongoing,” Holmes said.
Michael Knight, a public information officer with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Thursday evening that the agency is providing technical assistance for the investigation.
Staff Writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @burkhalter_star.