WAYCROSS — Firefighters battling a massive wildfire in South Georgia discovered 339 sticks of dynamite, and a U.S. Army bomb squad from Fort Stewart was called to detonate the explosives.
The dynamite was found Monday in a bunker-like structure near the pen that holds black bears at the Okefenokee Swamp Park, park manager Martin Bell said.
He said it was left over from the construction of the park in the early 1940s.
A bomb squad from Fort Stewart used acetone to stabilize the dynamite and carefully moved it to a site about a mile away from any buildings to detonate it.
“We drove it to the shot hole slower than they move the space shuttle to the launch pad,” Spc. Frank Medina Jr. told WSAV-TV.
The soldiers dug a hole for the explosives, then took shelter in their truck about 1,000 feet away and set off C4 explosives to destroy the dynamite.
“You can feel it go through your whole body — like a ghost,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Foster told WSAV.
Firefighters working in the area said they couldn’t distinguish the explosion from thunder in a storm that was passing through.
The dynamite was uncovered as firefighters prepared to conduct a back burn in the park area as a means of trying to remove some potential fuel for the wildfire, Bell said.
They were clearing out areas around the black bear pen when they came across the explosives.
Bell said it’s his understanding the dynamite was used in the early 1940s to blast cypress trees so the park could be constructed.
The park is about eight miles south of Waycross in a remote area on the north edge of the swamp.