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Dynamite stash on farm near Bluffton destroyed

Kevin Cederstrom herald@eot.com A Brainerd area bomb squad destroyed an estimated 250 pounds of dynamite last week on the Kempe farm, located between New York Mills and Bluffton. The dynamite, which was stashed in a granary on the farm, was burne...

Kevin Cederstrom

herald@eot.com

A Brainerd area bomb squad destroyed an estimated 250 pounds of dynamite last week on the Kempe farm, located between New York Mills and Bluffton. The dynamite, which was stashed in a granary on the farm, was burned without explosion on June 22.

According to Sgt. Phil Stoll of the Crow Wing County Bomb Squad, the five boxes of ditching dynamite was very old and the nitroglycerin had crystallized over the years.

Monica Kempe, 92, lives alone on the farmstead and said the dynamite belonged to her brother, Ludwig Kempe, who passed away 11 years ago. Ludwig used the ditching dynamite while working on a demolition road crew and Monica figures the dynamite was stored in the granary some time in the 1920s.

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The explosives have been in boxes beneath piles of oats since that time. Monica said she wanted to sell the oats and needed to get rid of the dynamite but didn't know exactly who to contact.

"I didn't want to advertise it and have some criminal get a hold of it," she said Monday. Instead, she told her niece, who contacted authorities.

Stoll said it's not real common for his squad to get called out for dynamite disposal but in most cases they try and stabilize the explosive, then move to a safe location to be destroyed. Since nitroglycerin leaking had occurred in the boxes over the decades trying to move the dynamite presented a danger. In this case, Stoll said, there was too much to move and he decided to burn the granary - dynamite, oats and all - on site.

The bomb squad soaked the boxes with diesel fuel, piled wood around and burnt the granary. The Bluffton Fire Department was on stand-by with water backup provided by the NYM Fire Department. The fire could be seen from Highway 10 and the Minnesota State Patrol and Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office blocked roads leading to the property.

The piles of oats still smoldered on Monday. Monica initially wasn't crazy about a pesky reporter asking questions, but did provide what she could remember about the dynamite's history.

Monica was born and raised on the farmstead and watched the controlled burn from the nearby school. Monica and her surrounding neighbors were evacuated before the burn as safety precautions. Monica's parents bought the land in 1899 and built the house in 1908. She wasn't sure when the granary was built but did say it wasn't the original building. The barn on the farmstead was built in 1914.

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