Lawrence fire officials probing discovery of 50 bottle bombs in city

A series of bottle bombs containing dangerous household chemicals that were found in Lawrence have sparked an investigation of local teenagers by city police and fire officials.

In the past two weeks, around 50 of the homemade explosives have been found in Lawrence, most recently in the Tower Hill neighborhood, Lawrence Fire Chief Jack Bergeron said. After interviewing local teenagers, authorities believe the devices are made by packing volatile household chemicals that explode when combined into plastic water bottles, he said.

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In some cases, the devices had apparently detonated; in other cases, they hadn’t.

“[The explosions] might sound like a .22-caliber rifle going off,” Bergeron said. “If somebody was standing nearby, they could get hurt by plastic shrapnel or the chemicals.”

Investigators are concerned the teenagers making the explosives will burn themselves by touching the chemicals, he said. One boy who is believed to have made some of the devices has already reported slight burns to authorities.

No arrests have been made, and Bergeron said authorities are working with juvenile courts to determine whether any charges will be filed.

Several of the explosives discovered in late March prompted the investigation, but Bergeron said authorities believe kids may have been making them for some time.

“We’re wondering if maybe kids picked it up on Facebook or Twitter and it took off like wildfire,” he said.