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Over 9 Tons of fireworks go up in smoke

MARTIN COUNTY — Tuesday was a bang-up day for bomb disposal specialists from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

They disposed of 20,000 pounds of illegal fireworks at the department’s gun range property west of Palm City.

The cache was seized on July 2 after deputies served a search warrant on 46-year-old James Buhs’ home at 907 E. Ocean Blvd., Stuart.

Once inside, authorities found several weapons, a large stash of cash and approximately $100,000 worth of fireworks stacked floor-to-ceiling and more stored in an outside shed.

Sheriff’s bomb disposal team Detective Bill Jones said although Tuesday’s disposal went off as planned, fireworks disposal under any circumstances is a dicey proposition.

“It is one of the most dangerous tasks we undertake,” Jones said, adding he would much rather deal with a bomb than dispose of fireworks.

As part of their training, the department’s bomb technicians learn how to effectively and safely dispose of fireworks at the Hazardous Devices School at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.

And as one might imagine, there is more to dispatching 10 tons of fireworks than striking a match and running for cover.

“It’s a very detailed process,” Jones said.

Essentially, the idea is generate an intense, extremely hot fire that will consume both the fireworks canister and charge before it has a chance to detonate and “kickout,” he said.

“We had some kickout, but yesterday worked almost perfectly,” he said.

Jones also said a significant amount of pre-disposal planning was required. Because fireworks are deemed hazardous materials, an approved disposal plan must be permitted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the entire affair coordinated with the fire department — just in case, he said.

While the bomb team has conducted about four fireworks disposals in the last 10 years, Jones said, Tuesday’s exercise was particularly memorable.

“In my 26 years of doing this, this was the largest cache of fireworks I’ve ever had to destroy,” he said.

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