Bombs in the family garage Potential disaster involving teen sends a message to peers, parents.

November 27, 1996

BUILDING PIPE BOMBS can be dangerous business, as 13-year-old Blaine Fairbanks found out last Thursday afternoon. A bomb the size of a roll of quarters exploded and injured him in his home in Arnold. Luckily, his wounds were not serious. Luckily for the neighborhood, damage was confined to the Fairbanks' garage.

It would be a mistake to dismiss such incidents as "the stuff teen-agers do." Exploding firecrackers and cherry bombs may fall in the category of adolescent behavior. But assembling a pipe bomb packed with black powder is more threatening to society. That is why possession of materials for making a pipe bomb or assembling one is a felony offense that carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

When rescue workers discovered a second bomb in the garage, police evacuated 10 homes in the neighborhood and called in the fire marshal's bomb squad. The Campus Green community near Anne Arundel Community College was disrupted for more than three hours.

In this era of dual-income or single-parent families, close monitoring of teen-agers can be difficult. Teens, nevertheless, need some adult supervision.

Few teens have the maturity and judgment to make consistently wise decisions; teens who vehemently recoil at that notion surely will come around to believe it in 15 or 20 years. Unfortunately, too many kids are responding to their peers or TV programs, not the best sources. Witness the child a few years ago who burned down his house, taking a cue from "Beavis and Butt-head," or the youth who lay down on a highway, mimicking a movie scene. Indeed, teens need room to make mistakes and learn from them. But sometimes their actions pose serious danger to themselves or others.

Police said the 13-year-old emptied several of his father's shotgun shells to muster enough gunpowder for his bombs -- another reason why parents should keep weapons and ammunition locked up. Adults also must keep an eye on chemicals youths buy. Alarms should go off when a teen-ager buys potassium nitrate and sulfur, two of gunpowder's main ingredients.

A lecture on the dangers of pipe bombs may fall on deaf young ears, but attentive adults can help ensure that normal teen trial and error does not become destructive.

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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