A training fuse, that goes inside a World War II anti-tank land mine, was unearthed near the railroad tracks that run along Joint Base Lewis-McChord March 8 which forced officials to shut down portions of Interstate 5. That was to give the 707th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, time to safely remove it.
Once the training fuse, which is an explosive, was removed, the 3rd EOD took it to a training location and disposed of it by detonation. Unit officials said they do not expect there to be any additional explosive items located in the area.
The training fuse was dug up by a railroad construction crew in the afternoon of March 8 near the railroad tracks between the DuPont and the Lewis Main gates. A quick response was required from JBLM officials.
After assessing that the munition was live and a potential threat, it was bunkered off using sandbags.
Because the munition was found during rush hour, officials agreed to wait until nighttime to try and limit the inconvenience to the community.
“We knew it was a viable threat, but EOD assured us that we would be able to wait until night to remove it properly,” said Ted Solonar, JBLM chief of police with the Directorate of Fire and Emergency Services. “We knew this was the best option. We didn’t want to make it any harder than it needed to be for the community.”
Shutting down the south-bound lanes of the interstate wasn’t a decision that came lightly. It is the first time Solonar or Maj. Brian Pilch, DES provost marshal, recall having to request to shut I-5 down.
They accomplished it with the assistance of the Washington State Police and the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The shutdown began at 11:59 p.m. and used a process known as a slow roll. This featured blocking on-ramps to the interstate and using pilot cars from the Highway 512-area slowing down the rest of the southbound traffic behind them.
The drivers signaled to others that they must slow down and inch along the road. This causes a large block of easily controllable traffic and provided EOD time to safely remove the explosive. Traffic was allowed to flow at normal speeds after about 12:45 a.m. when EOD had safely removed the munition, taking it to the training area.
“The slowdown went textbook, to be honest,” Pilch said. “Even though we’ve never had to use the technique, we knew it would go well.”
Although the fuse’s origin is still up for debate, experts seem to think it was something used for training decades ago and simply forgotten about. While they don’t have the training fuse dated, Capt. Andrew Heap, 3rd EOD, believes it was a World War II-era explosive.
“It’s not that uncommon for things to be left behind from training,” Heap said. “When you have an installation as old as JBLM, you never know what might turn up.”