Residents on a block near downtown Tooele got a scare Monday night after a homeowner found a box marked “dynamite” in the crawlspace of his home.
At about 6 p.m., the homeowner called the Tooele City Police Department to report the find. The police, and Tooele City Fire Department, made a perimeter 500 feet in all directions from the residence, said Bucky Whitehouse, public information officer for Tooele County Emergency Management.
Residents from the entire block, at 100 South and between 100 East and 200 East, also evacuated voluntarily while emergency personnel further inspected the box, Whitehouse said.
The Unified Fire Authority Bomb Squad was called to the scene and used X-rays and other equipment to determine what was inside. Meanwhile, the weather around them changed from blustery and dry to rain then snow.
Whitehouse said after scans determined the contents in the box were not dense enough to be explosives, crews carefully probed it to see what it was.
The result? Soap.
“There was a box marked ‘dynamite’ and had explosive markings, and it had soap in it,” he said. “The soap somehow must have gotten moisture on it or gotten wet and started foaming, which is an indicator of an unstable explosive.”
He added, “All of those factors together is what caused us to take the actions that we did.”
The suds created more questions than they answered, said Whitehouse — and they might never be answered.
“We have no idea how long it had been there,” he said. “I talked to the current homeowner, but then I called the two previous owners and spoke to them about it to see if they could give any clues to what we were dealing with.
“It was news to them that the boxes were even in the home,” Whitehouse added. “The last calculation between the three homeowners is 20 years, but it could have been there much longer. It’s a mystery to us, too. We don’t know why someone would have chosen these boxes to put soap in, and why they would put it in the crawlspace of the home. That’s another mystery.”
Residents were evacuated to the Tooele County Health Department, operated by health department staff, the American Red Cross and the West Desert Amateur Radio Club. They were allowed back into their homes at about 10:15 p.m.
Whitehouse said although the twist to the situation was bizarre, it was also welcome.
“We’re always happy when the end result is not as severe as it initially seems,” he said. “We sure appreciated the patience of all the residents who voluntarily evacuated and let us get a better look at it.”