On Sunday, August 30, in a controlled detonation on Mashpee Middle-High School’s athletic field, the Mashpee police and fire departments along with the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad destroyed homemade fireworks and improvised explosive device, or IED, materials.
The Mashpee School Committee and Superintendent Patricia M. DeBoer found out about the detonation only after the fact.
“I’m here to express my displeasure at an event that happened this past weekend,” said George Schmidt, chairman of the school committee, who spoke at the Mashpee Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, August 31.
“For a school committee member to find out what has happened to the school in a newspaper before the school department was notified is totally unacceptable. For an event to happen and to wait 24 hours before the school superintendent was notified that something had happened is unacceptable,” he said, adding he does not want anything like this to happen again. “If this were any other year, we could’ve had students in that field in the morning.”
Sports activities are permitted to begin on Friday, September 25. As long as COVID-19 does not hinder those plans, students will be practicing on the field.
Mashpee Fire Chief Thomas C. Rullo could not speak to why the school committee and administration were not alerted before the detonation.
“That’s not my responsibility,” Chief Rullo said.
Once the homemade fireworks are obtained by law enforcement, he said, the only way to dispose of them is to blow them up.
“The reason they’re detonated is to make sure there’s no material left over,” Chief Rullo said.
When the explosives were detonated they created craters and left debris, including nails and metal shards, on the athletic field.
Two nights after the selectmen’s meeting, Town Manager Rodney C. Collins addressed the school committee at its meeting on Wednesday evening, September 2, to address Mr. Schmidt’s concern.
“In retrospect, knowing what I know now, I should’ve notified the superintendent,” Mr. Collins said. “I didn’t realize that this was going to result in craters and the scattered debris that it did. I was told that limited people should be informed about this for security reasons. Safety is obviously the number one priority. In this age of social media spreading information faster than the press and, I should add, often inaccurately, it was critical to carry out this detonation without so-called onlookers seeking thrills or videos and putting themselves in harm’s way while possibly delaying the detonation.”
After careful consideration and deliberation among the Mashpee fire chief and deputy fire chief, investigators from the state Fire Marshal’s Office and the supervisor of the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad, a practice field at Mashpee Middle-High School was selected for the detonation.
It was the most logical site for the detonation, Mr. Collins said.
The Mashpee Department of Public Works will provide mitigation and repairs to the field.
“The town stands committed to restoring the practice field to its previous condition, which quite frankly was not a quality rate to begin with,” Mr. Collins said.
The firework and IED materials were obtained by police after a Mashpee man burned himself, including his face, from the fireworks last Friday, August 28.
Fireworks and evidence of homemade explosive devices were found in the man’s apartment, according to Jennifer Mieth, public information officer for the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services.
The Mashpee police and fire departments, along with state police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, are conducting an investigation, and the man will face charges.
Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts.