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YOUNGSTOWN In rash of drain-cleaner bombs, officials hope warning sinks in



Published: Tue, July 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The sound and fury are similar to a large firecracker, the arson bureau's commander said.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Beware if you spot what appears to be a carelessly tossed two-liter plastic soft drink bottle with odd-looking liquid inside. It could be a drain-cleaner bomb.

"There's no fuse, so you don't know when they'll go off," said Alvin Ware, Youngstown Fire Department's arson bureau commander. "Once they're mixed and the cap is back on, we can't get water on to dilute the chemical reaction."

Once the ingredients -- commonly found in most households -- are mixed, it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour for the bottle to explode.

Dangerous to handle: Ware said the bombs are dangerous if they explode while being handled and can be destructive if hurled at property. If they explode on grass, expect it to be burned.

The sound and fury when a drain-cleaner bomb explodes are similar to an M-80 or M-1000 firecracker, Ware said. They're very dangerous, he stressed.

"No one should touch them. Call the police, and they'll call us," Ware said. "Most of the time it's exploded by the time we arrive and we just find remnants, but this last one on the East Side was still smoking when we got there, and we waited for it to go off."

Four bombs: Ware has reports of four such bombings since mid-April, three on the West Side and one on the East Side. So far, three teen-age boys are charged with possession of a dangerous ordnance.

Ware suspects that kids making the explosive devices for fun checked out "how-to" sites on the Internet and shared the information at school or with friends in their neighborhoods.

The West Side explosions happened April 17 on Oneta Avenue, May 21 on South Hazelwood Avenue and June 14 on North Portland Avenue. The most recent was June 20 on North Pearl Street on the East Side.

Damage has been limited to paint at a house on Hazelwood and grass burns on Portland.

Coming back? Ware said it has been several years since drain-cleaner bombs presented a problem here and in the suburbs and he finds it disturbing to see them making a comeback, if that is the case.

Police departments in Boardman and Austintown said Monday that they haven't experienced any drain-cleaner bombs in years.

meade@vindy.com




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