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Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Salt Lake Bomb Squad's Carl Merino shows what a homemade bomb can do to some common items.

SALT LAKE CITY — The explosion can take anywhere from five seconds to 20 minutes.

And even though it can be in something as small as a water bottle, it has enough force to cause serious bodily injury.

But many people, including juveniles, believe it's just a harmless prank.

That's why on Tuesday, the Salt Lake Police Department's Bomb Squad held a demonstration to show why homemade dry ice bombs and other chemical bombs can not only cause serious damage and injury, but also result in serious felony charges.

The bomb squad put together an acid bomb and dry ice bombs using common household products.

With the acid bomb, Salt Lake bomb squad commander, Sgt. Carl Merino, showed how acid from the bottle was thrown several feet from just a small water bottle. Such acid could get on a person's skin and cause serious burns.

In another demonstration, bomb technicians put a dry ice bomb inside a mailbox. The metal box was effortlessly blown apart.

Even though it may seem harmless because common household products are used to make the device, Merino said the public needs to know not to be fooled.

"You can blow off fingers, damage hearing," he said. "It's still an explosion."

Possibly the biggest danger is the unpredictability of when the bomb will go off. With homemade chemical bombs, there's no control over that, Merino said. He has heard of stories involving juveniles who thought they had time to take their device out of the kitchen to the yard, but it blew up before it got out of the house, causing injuries.

The demonstration comes on the heels of the arrests of five people last week for setting off homemade acid bombs at West High School's football field. The five now face potential first degree felony charges.

Merino said his office received numerous calls from people in the community who thought the police department was being too harsh.

"The community still feels it's no big deal," he said. "We're protecting kids."

Simply possessing a homemade explosive device is a second-degree felony. Detonating an explosive device with two or more people present, or one that causes injury or is detonated in a park or school property, could potentially bump up the offense to a first-degree felony.

Merino said there are typically 30 to 50 chemical bomb incidents in the city each year.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com