First Petersburg, now Sitka. Military bomb experts and Sitka emergency personnel are investigating a possible buried cache of some type of explosives at the end of Lance Drive.

Unlike the recent case in Petersburg, however, the suspected explosives are not linked to any criminal activity.

According to Sitka Assistant Fire Chief Al Stevens, a Lance Drive property owner was building a rock wall on Thursday morning when he uncovered something suspicious.

“He discovered some wires coming out of the rock so he called us, and we came and looked at and not being experts in this, we passed this on up to the EOD experts out of J-BAR,” said Stevens.

He is referring to explosives specialists from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska’s largest military base, who arrived Thursday night. The team evacuated three adjacent residences and briefly closed Sawmill Creek Road to traffic. Emergency personnel worked until 1 AM Thursday night and resumed the investigation today.

“We didn’t make much progress. We know there’s something there but we don’t know what it is. This is from 30 years ago. So who knows what we’re dealing with…and how much we’re dealing with. It may be possible explosives, it may be a dud, it may be nothing…or it may be something,” said Stevens.

On Friday afternoon, emergency personnel and the EOD team met with city staff to figure out how to best handle the situation.

“It’s in a very difficult area. For one, it’s in very close proximity to the residential area, it’s in very close proximity to Sawmill Creek Road. We’ve got power lines going right across it, and a huge, huge 80-90 foot spruce tree that’s right on top of it. So we’ve got to come up with a plan on how we’re going to excavate this area,” Stevens said.

Neighboring residents have been allowed back into their homes, but may be asked to leave again soon.

“They’ve been living by it for 30 years, you know, but when we do start excavating and working in that area, yes, we are going to ask them to evacuate…and they are certainly agreeable with it too,” Stevens added.

Last week in Petersburg, federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents were called in after a 59-year-old man detonated Tovex, a commercial blasting explosive, in a case still under investigation. The man is expected to survive his injuries. After the blast, ATF agents gathered over 50 pounds of explosives, along with cord and electronic detonators, from the man’s property and vehicle and destroyed the cache in Peterburg’s rock pit on July 16.

KCAW News will pass on any relevant information about this case, as officials learn more.