The quiet mountain town of Red Lodge has been on edge after hearing nearly 560 pounds of explosives were stolen from a nearby U.S. Forest Service facility last month. Friday afternoon, officials from local law enforcement held a meeting offering more details about the stolen explosives and addressing public safety concerns.
Although 500 plus pounds of explosives sounds incredibly dangerous to have loose somewhere in the community, Jeff Gildehaus, the outdoor recreation planner for the Beartooth Ranger District, said the thieves don't have all of the components they need to ignite them.
"They are not nitro-glycerin based products like you would think of in cartoons and things like that, where you light them and they go "boom." These explosives take specific detonation systems to initiate them and are as safe as explosives can be to use. The regulations with ATF are that the detonation systems are stored separately from the explosives and we follow those regulations to a "T". So in a theft of explosives like this, those detonation systems aren't even available to them in that same location," said Gildehaus, who is also a certified blaster with the U.S. Forest Service.
In spite of the missing pieces required to detonate the explosives, local police are still taking it seriously and they are boosting security at local schools as a precaution. But for now, Red Lodge police chief Richard Pringle asked everyone in town to keep a lookout for anything suspicious. He encouraged residents to talk to law enforcement if they see something that doesn't look right.
"At this point, it's just a matter of everyone being vigilant and being aware of their surroundings. There's no credible information that there's any threat directed at Red Lodge any more than any other place," said Pringle.
The detonator caps and detonation system that would be required to ignite this batch of explosives are not readily available to the public. Gildehaus said although it's not impossible to detonate without those hard to acquire components, it would be incredibly difficult to do so.