Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

‘Soda-bottle bombs’ are found at two North Bethesda homes

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Two homemade explosive devices found in a North Bethesda neighborhood last month have put both residents and fire officials on edge, according to a Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service officials.

The devices, built from household cleaning products and soda bottles, were left on the front stoops of two homes in the Luxmanor neighborhood, near the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Tuckerman Lane, said Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer.

‘‘We take this very seriously,” Piringer said. ‘‘These items are very dangerous, because there is no industry standard to judge what kind of damage they can do.”

Piringer called the items ‘‘improvised explosive devices,” but they are commonly known as soda-bottle bombs, he said. The penalty for those responsible, if charged and found guilty, is up to 25 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Due to the rudimentary nature of the devices, Piringer said the Fire Marshall’s office believes they were made by teens. The volatility of the ingredients, he said, should make people think twice about building them.

‘‘These are particularly dangerous to people putting them together,” he said. ‘‘There’s no telling what the combination of ingredients can do.”

During one of the incidents, which both happened during the week of Jan. 21, a Luxmanor resident answered the door after hearing the doorbell ring, only to find the soda bottle on the front steps of the house, Piringer said. Thinking the item was garbage, the resident threw it away in a trashcan.

After throwing the bottle away, it exploded. No one was injured.

Paula Bienenfeld, president of the Luxmanor Citizens Association, said a resident notified her of the incidents. She posted information about the bombs on e-mail listservs for the neighborhood as well as nearby Walter Johnson High School, to warn others of the dangerous devices.

‘‘This just seems so scary,” she said. ‘‘I sent it on to others so they would know what to do [if they found a bomb].”

According to Piringer, what someone should do is simple: Call the fire department, and don’t touch the bottle.

Anyone with more information about the incidents is urged to call the Montgomery County Fire Marshall’s office at 240-777-2255.