SOLDIERS COMB SCRAP YARD FOR LIVE AMMUNITION.
Soldiers will search as much as 20 tons of spent shells - including small missiles and other ammunition - in order to make a scrap yard safe. A worker was killed in an explosion at the yard this week.
The team of 20 soldiers will explode any shells that may be live. Soldiers on Thursday exploded one shell that was inert.
Since an unidentified worker was killed, soldiers have worked with detectives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department bomb and arson unit to assess a mountain of assorted shells collected at the yard.
``A whole lot by any standard,'' said Maj. Archie Davis, a Fort Irwin Army spokesman. Fort Irwin sent experts to investigate an explosion that killed the worker Tuesday at Dick's Parts near Fontana.
Although investigators hope to learn how live shells could reach civilian hands, it's doubtful they'll know where the shell that killed the man was.
The county coroner is seeking the victim's family members in Mexico.
The ammunition includes missiles, tank rounds and 155 mm artillery rounds - all of which are used by different branches of the service.
``I saw Navy ammunition, Air Force, Army and Marines,'' Davis said.
Once examination of the site is completed, a plan for deactivating any live ammunition will be formulated, Davis said.
``We've looked at the pile. We don't know what's under the pile.''
Davis said a private contractor, Allied Technology Group, collects spent rounds from military bases. The shells are supposed to be certified as nonexplosive before they are distributed to scrap businesses.
Sgt. Glenn Holloway, a Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base spokesman, said spent ammunition is immediately picked up after drills. He said the Defense Reutilization Marketing Office at the base sends them out for recycling.
Officials said there is no indication that the shells at Dick's Parts were stolen, although a black market for stolen shells exists.
Davis said the military patrols Fort Irwin north of Barstow, but with more than 640,000 acres to cover, theft is possible.