Dane County Bomb Squad - EOD
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad was established in 1970, and is the oldest and busiest bomb
squad in the State of Wisconsin. In its proud 39-year history of dedicated service to the citizens of
Wisconsin, the bomb squad is the most active specialized unit within the Sheriff’s Office, and is
certified and accredited nationally. The Team is comprised of sworn officers from within the agency
that are trained and certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Army as Hazardous
Device Technicians. The squad also has one sworn deputy sheriff attached to the unit who serves as
the explosives K-9 handler.
The Dane County Bomb Squad provides professional expertise to twenty-six counties in the Western half of
Wisconsin, and has handled over 2700 calls for assistance since 1970. In 2008, the unit responded to 92
calls for service alone. Of these calls, seventy five percent (75%) originate in Dane County, while
twenty five percent (25%) occur outside of Dane County. The bomb squad responds to calls for explosive
devices that require render safe procedures be performed to include the following; improvised explosive
devices (IED), such as pipe bombs, suspicious packages, commercial explosives, military ordnance, and
limited hazardous chemicals. Team members are also trained to deal with weapons of mass destruction,
assist with post-blast investigations, support tactical units, and provide dignitary protection. The
unit is further trained to provide educational instruction to government entities and to private-sector
groups on explosive-related topics. The team also provides support to government agencies by assisting
in the prosecution of persons changed with explosive crimes.
All members of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad are required to complete the Hazardous Device
School (HDS) in Huntsville, Alabama, before attaining certification as a Hazardous Device Technician.
In addition, all members must have Hazmat Technician certification, and certification by the Bureau of
Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF&E) in Advanced Destruction Procedures and Post Blast
Investigation. Additional core components of training by members include courses on Large Vehicle and
Person Borne devices, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical devices, Advanced Electronics, Explosive
Breeching, and other training related to the operations and maintenance of equipment.
Major Incidents in Team History
August 1970 – Madison, Wisconsin. The Dane County Sheriff’s Bomb Squad investigates the bombing
of the Army Math Research Center in Sterling Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus. The incident
involves the first large vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) ever used in the United
States. The bomb consists of 1,800 pounds of ammonium nitrate explosives (ANFO), and is heard 28-miles
away from citizens in rural Dane County. The incident results in the death of physics researcher Robert
Fassnacht, and causes over 6 million dollars of property damage to the area.
Summer 1979 – Wisconsin. Bomb Squad members travel around Wisconsin for two months picking up
picric acid, a chemical used in the pharmaceutical industry and in chemistry laboratories. The chemical
product eventually deteriorates over time, and becomes unstable and friction sensitive. The Dane County
Bomb Squad responded to all calls on the western half of the state, while the Milwaukee County Bomb
Squad responded to all calls on the Eastern half of the state.
March 1983 – Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Five identical time bombs were discovered at the Riverview
Amusement Park. These explosive/ incendiary devices were all timed devices. The devices failed to
detonate, however some of the timers were within minutes of detonation. An Illinois couple was charged
and convicted in federal court for the offense.
October 1987 – Madison, Wisconsin. The bomb squad conducted a post-blast investigation at the scene of a
bank burglary/explosion in the City of Madison. The suspect’s attacked a safe inside of the bank by the use
of explosives. The detonation caused an estimated $50,000 in damage to the building and its contents.
April 1988 – Madison, Wisconsin. The first fatal bombing since the 1970 bombing of Sterling Hall
was recorded when a 25-year old Madison man went on a shooting rampage, with the intent of killing his
ex-girlfriend. The suspect was armed with a rifle, knife, and five pipe bombs in a residential
neighborhood. The suspect died when one of his devices detonated in his own hand. The incident
resulted in four people being wounded by the suspect’s actions.
June 1992 – Madison, Wisconsin. A heavily-armed subject exited his apartment and began discharging
a firearm, which resulted in a child being injured. The subject killed himself after being shot by the
first responding officer on the scene. Moments later, a fire was discovered in the suspect’s apartment,
which forced evacuation of the building. Firefighters attempting to extinguish the fire soon discovered
a booby-trapped shotgun, which forced them to withdraw and fight the fire from outside. The bomb squad
removed four separate homemade explosive devices from the apartment, along with numerous firearms which
were loaded and cocked. One of these firearms was later tested and found to be booby-trapped; when
initiated the entire barrel exploded and fragmented with a high-order detonation that propelled shrapnel
75 yards away.
June 2004 - Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Members of the bomb squad assisted the State of
Wisconsin in removing 830 pounds of highly deteriorated nitroglycerin dynamite from a retired
contractor’s storage shed near the municipal airport. The operation required removal of the product
and transportation to a disposal site to complete render safe procedures. The operation was completed
over a two-day period after which time the citizens of Prairie du Chien in the affected area were
allowed to return to their residences.
Fall 2005 – Madison, Wisconsin. A series of explosive devices were located in a Dane County
parking ramp over the course of several months. One of the devices detonated prior to the unit’s
arrival, which resulted in damage to a vehicle. All other devices that were located during these
incidents were rendered safe by the bomb squad.
January 2006 - Managua, Nicaragua. Members of the Dane County Bomb Squad traveled to Nicaragua
at the request of the U.S. State Department to train Nicaraguan police and military bomb squads on the
basic render safe procedures of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Nicaraguan government
requested the Dane County Bomb Squad after a Nicaraguan delegation observed the bomb squad at a disaster
preparedness drill which was held at the Dane County Regional Airport.
April 2008 – Viola, Wisconsin. The team is requested by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office to
assist with an armed and barricaded subject in his rural home. The subject had fired a rifle at Richland
County deputies who were attempting to serve civil process at his residence. The Richland County Sheriff
Office had obtained information to believe that explosive devices may be present on the property. After
the subject was taken into custody, the bomb squad spent almost two days clearing the entire property for
explosives, explosive devices, and booby traps. They were assisted in this work by a U.S. Army Explosive
Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Unit from Kansas City, Kansas.
The Dane County Bomb Squad works with the United States Secret Service and the United States Department
of State with the protection of visiting dignitaries. Those designated individuals receiving protection
include current and former U.S. Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Senators, heads of foreign governments, and
other individuals designated by the federal government. Since 1970, the Bomb Squad has assisted in
protection details for sitting Presidents, presidential candidates, heads of foreign governments, and
world religious leaders that have visited the squad’s area of responsibility. Some recent examples
would include former Presidents William Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and His Holiness the
Dalai Lama. The unit also provided protection during the 2002 National Conference of Mayors event which
was held in Madison, and has provided support at various sporting and political events that have been
held in the area.