‘Cache’ of Explosives Found at Yelm Property 


Local, state and federal agencies were working Tuesday afternoon to clear out what the Washington State Patrol bomb squad commander called a “homemade explosives lab” that was discovered on a Yelm property near Cougar Mountain Airfield.

Lt. Cameron Simper with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said deputies were dispatched to reports of possible “explosives and explosive-making materials” early Tuesday afternoon in the 20000 block of Neat Road Southeast. The explosives and the chemicals were found in a shed that was located on the property of the residence.

Family of the property owner were reportedly cleaning out the property when they found some concerning substances, so they contacted law enforcement. The property owner, a male believed to be in his mid-70s, had died about three weeks prior from natural causes. 

The identity of the man was not immediately released. 

Upon confirmation of the explosives, the sheriff’s office called in the Washington State Patrol. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI, the state Department of Ecology, the National Guard’s 10th Civil Support Team’s chemical biological weapons mass destruction team, and local firefighters also responded to the scene. 

WSP bomb squad commander Clifford Pratt said the agencies discovered at least 35 improvised explosive devices by Tuesday afternoon, though he said there will likely be more. Law enforcement agencies still have a lot of the scene to process and expect to find more. 

“This guy had a cache of them,” Pratt said. 

The Yelm man who died was not on law enforcement’s radar, but Pratt said his family described him as an “ultra prepper.” 

“If he was alive, he would be looking at some serious federal charges,” Pratt said. 

On Tuesday, crews detonated some of the explosives that were discovered. Pratt said the items were too dangerous to move off site. 

“Please be aware that explosions may be heard as these items are rendered safe,” stated a social media post from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. 

Those on site are working “slowly and methodically” to go through the drawers and cabinets of the property. Pratt said the items were stacked in cabinets and cupboards. 

No injuries have been reported, Simper said. 

Malachi Hoyt, the grandson of the deceased property owner, characterized his grandfather as “an old man playing around in retirement.” 

“He didn’t want to hurt anybody or anything else. He’s just having fun,” Hoyt said, noting that he had an affinity for explosives, rifle firearms and falling trees with detonation cord. 

Hoyt, a former chemical and nuclear defense specialist with the United States Marines Corps, said he’s not sure whether his grandfather served in the military. He did preach gun safety to Hoyt, though.

Law enforcement had plans to continue exploding the devices early Wednesday morning. 

“We’ll likely be holding the property overnight and continuing tomorrow morning. … We’ll issue an update when it’s safe,” Simper said. 

The public is advised to avoid the area. No evacuations have been issued for neighboring properties, Simper said. 

Chronicle photographer Jared Wenzelburger and reporter Eric Rosane contributed to this story.