Flares in the basement of a home on Farrell Street caused residents to be evacuated Wednesday afternoon when the flares were mistaken for old sticks of dynamite.
That's according to a statement from the Butte-Silver Bow Fire Department, which said that a renter and homeowner phoned police around 2:30 p.m. from the 2500 block of Farrell Street.
As a precautionary measure, nearby residents were told to evacuate while firefighters entered the home's basement and located the suspected dynamite. Meanwhile, fire personnel contacted dispatch to send police to shut down Farrell Street and detour traffic around the home.
Also responding to the home was Mike McGivern, Montana Resources vice president for human resources, and Jim Spanos, an explosive contractor from Colorado-based Buckley Powder Co.
McGivern said when he and Spanos arrived, they observed about 10 sticks of suspected dynamite in the corner of the basement. They were wrapped in newspaper and were contained within a "deteriorated" old bag.
Earlier, McGivern said, he and Spanos advised fire personnel to evacuate a two-house vicinity on all sides of the home.
Upon their arrival, McGivern and Spanos entered the basement, examined the suspected dynamite, and saw the sticks were labeled with a brand of car flare that is no longer manufactured.
At that point, the two knew the coast was clear and the evacuation was called off, McGivern said.
All units cleared the scene at 3:18 p.m., according to the fire department.
McGivern said dynamite can become unstable as it ages and that old dynamite can be set off by shaking or by an impact.
However, he said he didn't feel as though he and Spanos were in danger because they did not handle the dynamite aggressively. He also noted that Spanos has around 30 years of experience in explosives.
"I knew we were in good hands with Jim there," McGivern said.
Wednesday wasn't the first time McGivern has received a call about suspected explosives in Butte.
Within the past 10 years, he said, he consulted on a case in which someone had discovered boxes for DuPont explosive caps — but the boxes later turned out to be empty.
Also within the past 10 years, someone in Butte discovered several boxes containing dynamite.
Those boxes weren't empty, McGivern said, and a bomb squad from Missoula was called in. The squad desensitized the dynamite using a special kind of spray, and the sticks were later detonated at the MR mine, he said.
"Butte's got a mining history," McGivern said when asked if it's unusual to discover old explosives in Butte basements. "Occasionally you can run across it."