FAYETTE CO. OH (WCMH) — A string of fireworks stores have been burglarized and authorities are investigating whether they are related.
Investigators said, at issue is if those explosive are sold on the black market and end up in children’s hands.
There were four stores hit–two in Ohio, and similar ones in Pennsylvania and Florida.
The State Fire Marshal calls these thieves highly-motivated and prepared. He said they staked out Phantom Fireworks, used bolt cutters to cut a hole in the fence after closing, then using a reciprocating saw they cut their way into trailers full of explosives parked behind the business.
The group of burglars used communications and multiple vehicles, and the chief investigator said they also wore disguises.
Chief Josh Hobbs is the Fire and Explosives Investigator at the State Fire Marshal’s Office. “These individuals were wearing masks or bandannas,” Hobbs said.
Investigators said a big concern is who might get their hands on the explosives.
“Whether they could be sold on the black market to kids,” said Hobbs.
Investigators estimate $40,000 worth of fireworks were stolen in the early morning June 25 in Fayette County, and said the burglars where scared off by an alarm during an attempted burglary in Chillicothe. Hobbs said they used a tractor-trailer to haul the fireworks away, and Fayette County Sheriff Captain Tony Rose said the thieves didn’t linger.
“The way they went about it, we have officers that are on routine patrol in these areas year around, especially this time of the year,” said Rose.
The sheriff’s office, along with the U.S. 23 Major Crimes Taskforce and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, are jointly investigating state the burglaries.
Army Sgt. Teari Myers shops for fireworks at the Phantom store on State Route 38, because he said they treat military veterans well. He has four children and knows the dangers involved with explosives.
“I think it is the wrong answer for sure. Hopefully they figure out who done it and get it back,” said Myers.
I-71 is only a tenth of a mile away, which made for a fast getaway.
Phantom Fireworks is offering a $5,000 reward for the identity of the burglars.
The Fire Marshal’s tip line is 740-775-1208, or you can call the sheriff’s office at 740-335-6170.
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