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Southern Utah homes evacuated as Utah National Guard looks for decades old ammunition

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Posted at 6:29 PM, May 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-11 20:29:29-04

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah – A Utah National Guard search for decades old ammunition turned up with nothing Monday. Crews are looking for stray ammunition from when the area was used as a training ground. It’s part of a national effort to clean up old testing grounds.

Crews are mostly looking for unexploded rounds. Col. Robert Dunton said there have been several reported incidents of people finding ammunition over the years. In 2007, a homeowner uncovered a 3.5-inch bazooka round.

“The National Guard Bureau contracted nationwide to go and clean up these historical ranges,” Dunton said.

Crews have already scanned the area with radar, looking for possible munition target buried underground. On Monday, crews returned to physically inspect spots of interest. Because of the unstable nature of unexploded ammunition, they evacuated several homes in the area.

“Just in case the ordinance goes off in removal,” Dunton said. “Or we find one and we have to detonate it in place to remove it.”

Winchester Hills resident Charles Veloce lives on the corner of one of the search areas. While he wasn’t evacuated Monday, he is prepared to if needed. But he said it’s strange to think there could be something dangerous after all this time.

“They gave you plenty of warning so if they want me to leave, they knock on the door, I get in my car and go,” Veloce said.

The National Guard will supervise another search Tuesday morning. The Washington County Sheriff’s office will be in the area to oversee evacuations. Some residents have expressed concern the National Guard is using the searches as an excuse to enter private property and look for weapons, but Dunton said evacuations are strictly as a precaution.