Bomb squad experts with the Maryland fire marshal's office evacuated four homes in Queenstown on Saturday and spent five hours removing vials of explosive nitroglycerin from a garage of a home in a community near U.S. 50.
No one was injured, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph Zurolo. Bomb experts took the explosives to a rock quarry several miles away and detonated them, he said.
Authorities did not file charges against the homeowner.
This is not the first time bomb technicians have been called out to a residence, Zurolo said. "We do get a lot of calls about old dynamite blasting caps," he said. "Over the years, people have kept them from the days when purchasing explosives weren't difficult. We've seen it in sheds, and farmers use it to blow up stumps and clear fields."
Queenstown is on the Eastern Shore in Queen Anne's County. The grandson of the owner of the house in the 200 block of Old Point Lane discovered the liquid explosive while cleaning the garage, which is attached to the house, said Zurolo. The four test tube-size vials were stored in a cardboard box placed in a cabinet, he said.
Family members told Zurolo that one of the homeowners, an elderly man who recently died, used the explosive in his work years ago as a construction contractor. Zurolo said the man's widow, who lives in the house, was unaware of the vials.
Zurolo said the family members don't know how long the explosives were in the garage, but they suspect the man who used them forgot they were stored there.
"The gentleman was out of the business and wasn't doing contracting work anymore," said Zurolo. "Unfortunately, older folks don't think of having this stuff as being a problem. Fortunately, his grandson knew that he had it and called us."
If detonated, the result could have been deadly. If the vials had dropped to the ground, the result would be "like a hand grenade going off," said Zurolo.
"Years ago, you could just go in and buy your explosives and there really weren't that many questions asked," he said. "Nowadays you have to be licensed."
While the fire marshal's office gets calls from time to time about explosives, Zurolo said this was his first time in 20 years removing nitroglycerin.
"We're taught how to take care of it," he said. "I've had lots of dynamite. But never this."