(Beaver Dam) Authorities took plenty of precautions to protect surrounding properties from damage when highly volatile chemicals were detonated at 1:31pm Wednesday inside a Beaver Dam apartment building. The homemade explosives were found in unit number 11 of 109 Knaup Drive at the Village Glen Apartments following a Monday afternoon blast that killed one person. Residents in that building and 16 other buildings were evacuated Monday evening. All residents except those in 109 Knaup were allowed to return Wednesday night.
When authorities determined the explosives could not be moved, they switched to plan B, destroying the unidentified chemicals. Justin Tolomeo, the FBI’s Special Agent In Charge of the incident, says there was a variety of improvised explosive materials with a variety of precursor chemicals that was highly volatile giving authorities great pause. He says that led to the decision not to move the materials because it was such a great risk to officer safety.
Word of the detonation plan threw a scare into displaced residents who feared for the safety of pets still inside and the potential loss of their belongings. With the help of the Dodge County Humane Society, all pets were accounted for before the chemicals were denotated, leavings residents to worry only about their personal property.
Alex Steen, who lives some 40 yards from the blast site, lamented to reporters Wednesday morning before the detonation about not having renter’s insurance. Steen (pictured right) was eventually able to breathe a sigh of relief because of the methodical approach taken to secure the scene.
A large vent was cut into the roof and sandbags were strategically placed in and around the apartment to direct the expected shockwave and minimize the impact. In addition, doors and windows at adjoining properties were boarded with plywood.
Agent Tolomeo says the bomb technicians and specialists did a yeoman’s effort in securing area’s around the detonation site. He says damage to the unit itself and surrounding units was anticipated and did occur however – given the volatility of the materials – they were successful in detonating the chemicals without any secondary explosions. Damage was apparently contained to building 109. The detonation did result in a fire in the attic and adjacent apartments that was extinguished by the Beaver Dam Fire Department. There was structural damage to the building which will be reviewed by a structural engineer. The damage was characterized as being less severe than what had been predicted by experts. Tolomeo says pertinent evidence was removed before the detonation.
The deceased still has not been identified; more information is expected to be released as it becomes available in coming days and weeks. Officials say there is no threat to the public from contaminants, fumes or other hazardous materials in the area. The Beaver Dam Police Department worked with the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office; Dodge County Emergency Management; The Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation; the Milwaukee and Dane County Sheriff’s offices and multiple first responder and law enforcement agencies.
Pictured above left to right: Beaver Dam Police Chief John Kreuziger, Beaver Dam Fire Chief Alan Mannel, Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt and FBI Special Agent Justin Tolomeo