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WWI shell found in Harford County flower bed; authorities safely dispose of projectile

A team of Bomb Technicians from the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) safely disposed of a WWI era round yesterday evening in Harford County. The unexploded military ordnance was determined to be a 37 MKI projectile. Photo from the Office of the State Fire Marshal
A team of Bomb Technicians from the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) safely disposed of a WWI era round yesterday evening in Harford County. The unexploded military ordnance was determined to be a 37 MKI projectile. Photo from the Office of the State Fire Marshal

Two Harford County residents unearthed a WWI shell with an intact fusing mechanism while working in their flower bed Wednesday, the Office of the State Fire Marshal announced Thursday.

Kelly and Shannon Thomas of the 2600 block of Calvary Road found the shell, which investigators believe was not fired, in their garden on Tuesday, according to a news release from the office. The two left it to sit overnight and contacted the Harford County Sheriff’s Office the next day. The sheriff’s office, in turn, notified the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

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The round was determined to be an 37 MKI projectile, and bomb technicians from the fire marshal’s office and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives decided to conduct an emergency disposal of the potentially dangerous round, the release states. Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire explained that a emergency disposal is when bomb technicians use other explosives to detonate an explosive device on scene, rendering it safe.

Finding military ordnance is not unprecedented around the state, Alkire said — particularly near Aberdeen Proving Ground and near the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Maryland has a history of military testing, the release states, especially on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and around APG. Sometimes, unexploded ordnance finds its way from the water to the surface.

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While some ordnance washes onto shore, Alkire explained, finding a shell buried in a garden is less common.

“That is fairly rare, but it does happen from time to time,” Alkire said. “We surmise that years ago, they may have been moving dirt or other materials from APG to other areas.”

The office cautioned the public to be careful around military ordnance and practice the “three R’s”: recognize that suspicious objects found should not be touched, retreat or leave the area and report the finding and its location to a 911 dispatcher.

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