National Guard search for explosives in Winchester Hills; STGnews Videocast

WINCHESTER HILLS — Searches for explosives in the rural community of Winchester Hills north of St. George have become a part of life for some residents since 2007, when one resident discovered a 3 1/2-inch bazooka round that was apparently left in the area over 50 years ago; at that time the area was a Utah National Guard training range. Monday, the search continued as a private company hired by the state of Utah in conjunction with the National Guard combed an area of the community and the surrounding area with high powered metal detectors.

National Guard personnel and Washington County Sheriff deputies keep watch over a Winchester Hills street during a voluntary evacuation due to a search for unexploded munitions, Winchester Hills, Utah, May 11, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Jon Duckworth, St. George News
National Guard personnel and Washington County Sheriff deputies keep watch over a Winchester Hills street during a voluntary evacuation due to a search for unexploded munitions, Winchester Hills, Utah, May 11, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Jon Duckworth, St. George News

Residents have been using the area for recreational purposes for years, not realizing what could be buried under the red dirt surrounding the community. In addition to the bazooka round, small-arms ammunition was found in 2012 and debris from an exploded rocket was found last year on a hillside adjacent to Winchester Hills Water Company storage tanks.

“We have a historical training area that was not designated as a training area,” National Guard Colonel Robert Dunton said. “Back then, in the ’50s, it was probably just open land; and we’re not sure why they did that, but they came and trained here and probably didn’t track the ordnances that they were firing as well as they should have; and so, as this area became developed we started finding these UXOs – UXO’s an unexploded ordnance – and we wanted to be sure that this land, this area, was safe from any possible detonation from this historical munitions.”

An April 2, 2015, memorandum to Winchester Hills residents said that an investigation would take place. Limited home evacuations would be required, and a list of possibly affected properties was included. The fear of mandatory evacuations was unfounded, as several residents of the area chose to stay in their homes Monday morning. They were asked to stay in their homes while the search was conducted.

Winchester Hills resident Gary Harrison. Winchester Hills, Utah, May 11, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
Winchester Hills resident Gary Harrison. Winchester Hills, Utah, May 11, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

Gary Harrison and his wife evacuated the area early this morning, but came back and were allowed to return to their home.

“My wife is disabled and we cannot leave our home,” Gary Harrison said. “We’d rather stay home and suffer the consequences.”

At a meeting on April 14, representatives from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office met with residents and told them that the Utah National Guard will coordinate with the Sheriff’s Office, and only if a public safety concern arises. A communication from the sheriff’s office released Sunday said no evacuations would occur without the Sheriff’s Office coordinating the action.

“In the event that a public safety concern arises, the situation will be evaluated and proper steps will be taken to resolve the situation with the least amount of intrusion,” the communication said.

Col. Robert Dunton of the Utah National Guard. Winchester Hills, Utah, May 11, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
Col. Robert Dunton of the Utah National Guard. Winchester Hills, Utah, May 11, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

The evacuations are only for public safety reasons, Dunton said.

“We are working with the county sheriff to make sure that the public, if one of these UXO’s (unexploded ordnance), when it’s uncovered, goes off, that no damage to homes or life is created,” Dunton said, “We are asking the public to evacuate for the public safety.

Dunton added that they are not going on private property or asking people to leave their homes unsecured.

“And so we’ll come in, we’ll maintain the security, make sure nobody else comes in the property, so that they don’t have to worry about what’s going on, things like that while we get that done,” Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said, “and get them back in the home as quick as we can.”

The National Guard and the Sheriff’s Office are working with a private environmental company, Weston Solutions, to mitigate any dangers that may remain in the area. Pulsipher and other personnel from the Sheriff’s Office along with National Guard personnel were in Winchester Hills Monday to answer any questions regarding the investigation.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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7 Comments

  • Brian May 11, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    I would love to know how much the contract for Weston Solutions is to do all of this. Winchester Hills is a 35 year old community, where lots of homes have been built, lots of water lines put in, lots of dirt moving, landscaping, etc. In the 65 years since these shells were launched, a grand total of 1 live shell has been found, and it was found far from these houses. They already came in 3 years ago and did an extensive search and found nothing, and that was after they’d already come once before. We all thought it was resolved, and now here they are back again with an ever-changing story and forced evacuations (without even notifying the Sheriff – the highest Constitutional officer of this area that reports directly to the governor). There have been 2 large explosions today (probably blowing up the leftovers from their lunch), no doubt to make us feel like we’re getting our money’s worth. Total waste. So after this 3rd round of fun is done, will you leave us alone?

    • fun bag May 11, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      millions upon millions $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ 😉

    • Chris May 12, 2015 at 11:18 am

      Note the caption:

      “National Guard personnel and Washington County Sheriff deputies keep watch over a Winchester Hills street during a voluntary evacuation”

      It appears that the Sheriff was involved contrary to what you claim.

      • Brian May 12, 2015 at 12:52 pm

        The Sheriff didn’t know about this until my friend emailed him 3 days before it was to happen. They’ve been preparing for this for 6+ months and never once notified him or his office, or involved him in their plans.

  • laytonian May 12, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Oh, for hell’s sake. “highest Constitutional officer that reports directly to the Governor”. HARDLY.
    What’s WITH you people? Your buddies are getting big-money contracts to kill wolves that don’t even exist in Utah — and you don’t complain about THAT!
    You “constitutional experts” don’t know your butts from a hole in the ground. Rather, you worship the scamming and land-raping Lymans, Redds, Noels and Bundys.

    • Brian May 12, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Educated beyond your intelligence… THE most important aspect of the Constitution is the balance between federal power and state power (and it is meant to be a balance). Liberals love the Bill of Rights but forget that it was brought about by the states being concerned that the federal government had too much power (it did then, and does now again) and that the rights of the states (THE PEOPLE) were being trampled. The federal government is NOT the people, nor does it represent them. The states represent the people and watch out for their rights. States have these smaller parts known as counties. (Let me know if I’m going too fast or using words with too many letters). Counties have a top law enforcement officer known as a Sheriff. The Sheriff is sworn to uphold BOTH the state Constitution AND the federal Constitution. He represents the people. He answers directly to the governor, who’s job is to represent the people in his state. So yes, the Sheriff IS the “highest Constitutional officer” for the county, and yes, he does answer directly to the governor, and yes, it is a MAJOR screw-up for a federal contractor to be doing mandatory evacuations without the Sheriff being involved. That’s one reason the 17th Ammendment was such a travesty: it removed representation from the states, moving everyone to DC and the den of lobbyists. The Founding Fathers were inspired geniuses, and the balance of power was very precise and delicate, with congressman representing the federal interests, and senators (being chosen directly by the state representatives and able to be recalled and replaced at will) representing the states / peoples interests. But the 17th messed that up and turned the whole thing into a money-driven popularity contest. It’s a downward spiral that continues, and the balance of power swings further and further to the federal side. Worse yet, it’s now swinging to the global side (TPP will be a death-blow in that direction if it passes).

      • fun bag May 12, 2015 at 11:19 am

        “Liberals love the Bill of Rights but forget that it was brought about by the states being concerned that the federal government had too much power”

        there u go again Bri, blah blah blah liberals this and liberals that. The theocracy of this good ol’ state doesn’t represent the common people at all. It needs the feds to keep all our good ol’ boy clowns in line. Your argument is invalid…

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