A Skidegate resident made a surprising find when digging in the yard last week — an old military mortar.
Military experts later flew in from Victoria and safely exploded the device, which they and RCMP experts said was likely inert anyway and posed little risk.
But when the rusted old mortar was turned in to the Queen Charlotte RCMP in a bucket on the morning of July 24, police had to shut down the building for over three hours just to be safe.
“Any time anything like that is found and it appears to be of military origin, the safest thing to do is give us a phone call and we’ll get it sorted out,” said Constable Chris Kienzle of the Queen Charlotte RCMP, adding that the same goes for large military flares that sometimes wash up on Haida Gwaii beaches.
Lieutenant (Navy) Melissa Kia, a spokesperson for Maritime Forces Pacific, agrees.
“The most important thing is not to handle it — do not pick it up,” said Lt. Kia.
“Simply flag the location, and make sure you call the authorities. But do not pick up the round.”
In this case, the old mortar round may have been a training aid, or simply so old that it had become chemically inactive.
Disposal teams are trained to take old military ordnance to an isolated place, such as a rock quarry, and to safely explode it under rock or a dome.
“Especially with an old round, we don’t know how it’s been degraded, how it’s been taken care of,” said Lt. Kia. “It’s a safety precaution.”
“We don’t want anybody even in possession of an empty casing, because we don’t want them to pack it again.”
Constable Kienzle said the same goes for any unwanted guns that islands residents might want to turn into police to take care of — just phone the detachment.
“We’d love to get phone calls so that we can come out, and know what we’re getting into, rather than watching somebody walk up to the detachment carrying a firearm,” he said.