- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

CAMP MINDEN, La. (AP) - A bunker holding 20 tons of potentially explosive artillery propellant and 42.5 tons of dangerously unstable nitrocellulose will be set afire Tuesday morning at Camp Minden, if weather allows, the Louisiana National Guard said Monday.

After a bunker full of nitrocellulose, also called “clean-burning igniter,” exploded Sept. 29, experts deemed the remaining 100 tons too unstable to leave in place. Two of the three remaining bunkers holding that compound were torched Friday and Saturday to destroy it.

The remaining compounds are to be destroyed between 9 and 11 a.m. Tuesday, and officials at Camp Minden will monitor it via video from a National Guard helicopter, according to a National Guard news release.

Friday’s fire burned 820 pounds of igniter, which is used to touch off the slower-burning M6 propellant in artillery shells. Both compounds were abandoned at Camp Minden by a tenant that went bankrupt in 2013. Saturday’s ignition burned all but 192 pounds of about 57 tons in a second bunker, the guard said Monday.

Those six boxes will be burned Wednesday, along with any remaining after Tuesday’s burn, the statement said.

A school across from the 23.4-square-mile National Guard facility will be closed Tuesday, Webster Parish school officials said.

“The decision was based strictly on erring on the side of caution for the students’ safety,” personnel director Johnny Rowland said. Doyline High, with about 450 to 500 students in kindergarten through high school, is the only one of the parish’s 15 schools that will close Tuesday, he said.

A notice on the school board website said Doyline High would be open Wednesday. Neither Rowland nor Superintendent Daniel Rawls, who was out of town, could be reached immediately to ask whether plans for a small burn Wednesday would affect that decision.

Although the guard had been told that the burns probably would not be heard outside Camp Minden, the Minden Press-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/2fxTn8k ) that some people miles away said they heard a boom and felt their houses shake Saturday. Others didn’t hear a thing.

“I’m not sure if it was the direction or design of the bunker or what other factors contributed, but I had no clue it had happened, other than I knew it was scheduled to happen,” Doyline Mayor Gary Carter told the newspaper (https://bit.ly/2fod9Up ).

The National Guard said the burn Saturday started small brush fires but firebreaks contained them.

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