Explosives Seized After Centreville Fire

Investigators confer in the garage where the fire started. Nearby houses were evacuated while explosives and other materials were removed.
Investigators confer in the garage where the fire started. Nearby houses were evacuated while explosives and other materials were removed. (Photos By Pouya Dianat -- The Washington Post)
By Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Authorities recovered more than 700 pounds of explosives and explosive-making materials from a property in Fairfax County yesterday after an explosion and fire that flared as the homeowner was manufacturing "large pyrotechnics," officials said.

Fairfax fire officials evacuated four nearby homes in Centreville while more than 40 firefighters, police officers and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives removed the material from the house's charred garage and a backyard shed.

"We consider these homemade explosive devices," said Capt. Chris Schaff, a fire department spokesman. Investigators do not believe the homeowner had any "aggressive intent," but illegal fireworks are illegal explosives, Schaff said. He said such material could be used to make bombs.

Schaff said the homeowner, Michael A. Baglini, 46, was grinding metal in his garage in the 13500 block of Portage Place when the blast occurred shortly before 12:45 p.m. Sunday. No one was injured.

Schaff said Baglini was cooperating with officials.

"I've never seen this type of product in a residence before," Schaff said. "We're looking at hundreds and hundreds of dangerous explosives."

Fairfax Fire Battalion Chief Michael T. Reilly said Baglini, a tech consultant and the father of two teenagers and a college-age child, could face felony charges, including possession, use and manufacturing of explosive devices, which carry up to 10 years in jail. He could also face federal charges.

Firefighters evacuated two adults and two teenagers from the home Sunday.

Schaff said authorities seized 200 pounds of completed explosive devices Monday and 500 pounds of "raw explosive device-making material." He said most of the material was found in a 12-by-15-foot backyard shed about 25 yards from a neighbor's home.

Chemicals, powders and fertilizer were among the items confiscated, Schaff said. He said Baglini had several devices to mix the materials together.

Even if Baglini were licensed to make fireworks, he would not be allowed to have those types of explosives at his residence, officials said.

Fire officials said it took more than three hours to subdue the blaze, because the explosives prevented firefighters from extinguishing it from within. Firefighters cut a hole in the side of the house to enter the space above the garage, where a false ceiling had been installed to store more material, Schaff said. He estimated the damage to the $700,000 home at $250,000.

Neighbors said Baglini was known for putting on spectacular fireworks displays.

"On the Fourth of July, we knew there was something illegal going on over there," neighbor Jennifer Howe said. She said the fireworks the family was setting off seemed to go up "a lot higher" than what she thought was allowed. Fire officials said they weren't aware of any neighbor complaints about Baglini, however.

Fire officials cordoned off the quiet suburban cul-de-sac yesterday while authorities removed the explosives. "If you set off some of this stuff, it would blow out windows all down the street," Schaff said.

"That's a huge amount," said Sherry Salama, who lives down the street from the Baglinis, when told what authorities had taken from the two-story brick Colonial. "It's very scary. You don't expect your neighbor to have those amounts of explosives at home."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company