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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Utah military base that carries out tests to protect troops against biological attacks locked down

Nerve agent mix-up prompts Utah base lockdown

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A mix-up over a tiny vial of deadly nerve agent led to the overnight lock-down of the Army's Dugway Proving Ground, a sprawling, remote base where the U.S. military conducts weapons tests, officials said on Thursday.

 

MYSTERY: Utah Army base locked down after 'serious concern'

SALT LAKE CITY  — A Utah military base that carries out tests to protect troops against biological attacks was locked down over a "serious concern," but was beginning to reopen early Thursday, officials said.

Early Thursday, base spokeswoman Paula Thomas said the base, located about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, had reopened to incoming personnel, and preparations were under way to allow people inside to leave.

She said there were no injuries resulting from the cause of the lockdown, which began Wednesday afternoon. She said more details would be released later in the day.

Col. William E. King, base commander at Dugway Proving Grounds announced Wednesday evening that gates were locked to both incoming and outgoing personnel to resolve the problem, but that no one was in danger.

King and other base officials declined to provide any details on the cause of the lockdown.

"As you know measures like these (lockdown of our gates) are not taken lightly," King said Wednesday, according to NBC station KSL-TV. "No one is in immediate danger but these steps are required."

Thomas called as accurate media reports that about 1,200 to 1,400 people — a mix of military personnel and contractors and civilian workers — were inside the base when the lockdown occurred.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a lockdown began at 5:24 p.m. MST Wednesday, with no one allowed in or out of the base.

According to its website, the nearly 800,000-acre base conducts chemical and biological defense training, and "is the Defense Department's leader in testing battlefield smokes and obscurants."  Personnel there also test military equipment's viability in environments where they're facing chemical or biological threat.

The base also is used by the U.S. Army Reserves and the U.S. National Guard for maneuver training.

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