A metal tank found in a west Medford alley Friday was a homemade explosive that failed to detonate when the fuse fizzled, police said.
The device, about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle, was reported by a passerby at about 1:30 p.m. at an alley off Hamilton Avenue between 12th and 13th streets. Medford police responded, followed by the Oregon State Police bomb squad, who isolated the device.
Lt. Mike Budreau said the device's fuse appeared to have been lit, but had gone out before detonation.
"Which was a really good thing. We got lucky," Budreau said. "That's a densely populated neighborhood. (Shrapnel) could have certainly gone through glass, gone through fences."
Medford police blocked off the alley on both sides until the bomb squad arrived. Bomb squad personnel put the device inside a large metal tank called a total containment vessel and later found the explosives after moving the device away from the populated area and examining it.
"We're trying to open it up in a way so that it can no longer (build up) pressure," said Detective Brett Keller of the bomb squad.
Police officials would not disclose the types of explosives discovered, as the investigation is ongoing, but said its detonation could have been catastrophic.
"That is a large metal cylinder, so it would take quite a bit of pressure to break (it)," Budreau said. "Yet if it does, the blast would be rather devastating. You're not only going to deal with the shockwave once it explodes, but the shrapnel from the device itself."
Bomb squad officials added similar types of homemade devices are made using a variety of materials.
"It's not as common to see a metal container versus the kids building the bottle bombs," said Sgt. Kevin Del Grande with the bomb squad's explosives unit. "Both have their potential to cause harm."
Police interviewed neighbors but found no witnesses.
Authorities don't believe the bomb was intended as a targeted attack and it does not appear to be tied to a recent string of arsons that damaged numerous vacant homes in west Medford. They also haven't found a connection with an arson that damaged Medford's Zion Lutheran Church back in July.
"That's probably going to be a stretch," Budreau said of any potential link. "You're looking at a middle-of-the-day type thing. You're looking at a bomb."
Under Oregon law, the unlawful possession of an explosive device, which includes bombs, grenades and rockets, is a Class felony.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.