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Marathon-Oneida bomb squad travels far


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Last week, we reported the incident where a man died near Birchwood, in northwestern Wisconsin, and people searching the property in preparation for an estate sale found 40 pounds of dynamite stashed under a shed floor. The bomb squad that was called to assist the Washburn County Sheriff’s Department was the Marathon-Oneida County Bomb Squad.

Marathon County Lieutenant Fred Goch says it may be hard to believe, but it’s not that uncommon to find explosives like dynamite stashed on private property. “It really wasn’t in terms of there being quite a bit of old explosives that people still have in old barns and houses, and this was just another incident like the others.”

Goch says the regulations have changed over the past forty years, and explosives just are not as easy to get as they used to be. “Up until 1971 or so, it was legal to actually buy dynamite, be it from a hardware store or some other vendor, and it didn’t have the regulations we have now. Farmers would buy it, and consequently, there’s quite a bit of leftover (explosives).”

The Marathon-Oneida Bomb Squad is one of five in Wisconsin, and covers 32 counties in their primary response area. Sheriff Scott Parks says this unit covers from Highway 45 to Minnesota and from around 10 up to Lake Superior. Parks says they occasionally go farther south when other units are not available. “There’s been occasions where we’ve been down at Fort McCoy, or down in the Sparta-Tomah area, because no other bomb team has been available in the state of Wisconsin.” adding, “We can travel anywhere in the state, but we are tasked to cover 32 counties.”

Bomb squad equipment and training is not cheap, but Parks says this cost is not on the local counties thanks to special programs. “A majority of the training is grant funded, and along with the equipment also, through the Office of Justice Assistance or through Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, federal grants and such. A majority of that is covered by them.”

The other bomb squads in Wisconsin are based in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and La Crosse. They can all travel to wherever they are needed around the state.