MILLINOCKET, Maine — About 20 Katahdin Avenue households were evacuated for about four hours on Saturday evening after a local man found a suspicious device in the basement of the house he and his wife were moving into.
The house, which had been empty for a few years, last was owned by former Millinocket Police Chief Wayne Scarano, Millinocket police Officer Martin Legassey said late Saturday night.
A graduate of the FBI National Academy who served as a sergeant with the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War and also as Houlton’s police chief, Scarano died in October 2007.
“It was very authentic looking,” Legassey said of the device, which had many of the hallmarks of a real bomb, including seven sticks of what appeared to be dynamite, a timer or clock, an alarm and wiring.
Millinocket resident William Levesque said Sunday that he and his wife, Patricia, had been eyeing the house at 43 Katahdin Ave. for two years before closing on it on Friday.
The couple was just starting to move in on Saturday when he found what appeared to be a bomb in the basement, said Levesque, who has had some training with explosives during his three-year stint as a military policeman for the U.S. Army and as a former Millinocket firefighter for 20 years.
Levesque said that he first spotted the device elsewhere in the home on Tuesday, a few days before buying the house, and had asked a Millinocket police sergeant to take a look at it. In the meantime, however, the device was moved, he said.
“So we let it go,” he said.
When he next saw it on Saturday, he was cleaning out the basement, which still held a year’s supply of food and water that Scarano had left behind before his health began to decline and he moved to New Hampshire to be closer to his son.
“I guess he was a bit of a survivalist,” Levesque said.
He found the device at about 5:30 p.m. tucked behind some bottles of water that Scarano had been storing there, he said. He took it upstairs, set it on the kitchen floor and called the fire department, which in turned called town police.
Legassey said that when he and Chief Don Bolduc, Sgt. Aaron Brooker and Officer Gary Lakeman got a look at the device, they called in the state police’s bomb crew and personnel from the state fire marshal’s office.
“I was pretty comfortable [handling it] because somebody already had moved it, but then some very good bomb experts who have had those feelings have been blown to bits,” he said.
He said, however, that he also made sure that what appeared to be sticks of dynamite did not show signs of instability and that the device did not have an ignition source before picking it up.
“When the bomb experts in Augusta saw [a] picture [of the device], they practically flew up here,” Levesque said. He said the device now is in the possession of the fire marshal’s office.
“It’s so realistic that they asked me if they could keep it to use as a training device,” he said.
As of Sunday, neither Levesque nor Legassey knew for sure why Scarano had the device. Levesque said he thought Scarano might have acquired it while investigating a bomb scare at some point in his career.
On Sunday, Levesque was taking the incident in stride.
“Hey, I still own a house and not a hole in the ground,” he said.
Though the device turned out not to be a bomb, Legassey said Levesque made the right decision when he called in the authorities.
“People should always call us before touching anything they think might be a bomb,” he said.