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Federal authorities continue to investigate the theft of 559 pounds of explosives in April from a storage bunker near Red Lodge, and a $5,000 reward offer is helping those efforts.

"We continue to work on the investigation, and we are following up on leads that have been generated from the reward offer," said Brad Beyersdorf, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Denver. "We have received some tips, and we are following up on all of them."

Thieves broke into a U.S. Forest Service bunker two miles south of Red Lodge and stole the explosives. The ATF is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the thieves.

Beyersdorf said that no arrests had been made as of Wednesday morning and declined to discuss whether the ATF has identified any persons of interest.

He said it was too early to tell whether the thieves would face federal charges if arrested.

Mariah Leuschen, spokeswoman for the Custer and Gallatin national forests, said the explosives are used for a wide variety of forest service duties, from trail construction and maintenance to clearing rock slides, from tree removal to large animal carcass disposal when there's potential for human-bear encounters.

"Forest service locations around the nation have a program with certified blasters," she said. "The explosives are agency-approved products."

Included in the theft were emulsion-type explosives, explosive cast boosters and detonating cord. Leuschen said they're not publicly available and need special detonators, which weren't stolen.

"They do require specific detonation systems, which are stored in a separate facility and were not taken," she said. "They're not like dynamite or a nitroglycerine-based product."

Officials spoke at a public meeting in Red Lodge in late April to address public concerns and answer questions regarding the thefts.

Leuschen, who did not attend the meeting but was briefed on it, said one of the concerns was that the explosives were stored in forest service cabins commonly seen in the area, which is not true.

"All of the explosives are stored in structures that meet or exceed requirements by the ATF," she said. "They're not cabins. They're secured facilities."

Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to call the ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662) or locally in Billings at 406-657-9700. People also can call the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office at 406-446-1234.

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