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ATF'S BLASTING RAISES QUESTION OF NOTIFICATION

When the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wants to blow up bombs, it looks for an out-of-the-way place, like a deep stone quarry.

It's safe, access is limited, and the quarry is no stranger to explosives.

But the ATF didn't count on the discriminating neighbors of Buffalo Crushed Stone in Cheektowaga, who knew that something was up Wednesday when they heard more explosions than normal at the quarry.

A number of residents called Town Hall that day, wanting to know why they were hearing explosions every 15 minutes at midday, rather than one or two.

Though the Town Board's secretary taking the complaints didn't know it, the ATF had picked Buffalo Crushed Stone to conduct a training exercise for bomb squads from several area police agencies.

"It's one place we know they blast," said Senior Special Agent Joseph G. Green. "We usually use firing ranges or explosive ranges or isolated areas."

Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr. said he called the quarry, the FBI and the Erie County Sheriff's Department before finding out who was conducting the exercise. When he contacted the Cheektowaga Police Department, he was told that the department was aware of the activities.

"They exploded ordnance in a quarry without notifying the public," Johnson said. "I think it's extremely offensive."

"We don't want people to be upset," Green said. "They were practicing detonating shots. It's good training for them."

While ATF agents regularly detonate explosives, he said, bomb squads in the area need to keep their skills sharp by having training exercises. He said the bureau usually does not publicize the training events.

Johnson has asked that the public and Town Hall be notified of any similar plans in the future.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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