A loud boom and burst of flame signaled bomb technicians had ignited a “controlled detonation” intended to destroy explosive chemicals inside a Beaver Dam apartment Wednesday afternoon.
Beaver Dam Police Chief John Kreuziger said during an afternoon press conference the controlled explosion at 109 Knaup Drive went better than expected. The displaced residents from neighboring apartment buildings were able to return to their residences Wednesday night.
Bomb experts descended on the apartment following an explosion Monday that left one person dead and displaced residents in several surrounding buildings.
Kreuziger previously identified the man killed in the apartment as its tenant. He has been described as someone who moved to the area a couple of months ago to rent the apartment. At a meeting for evacuated residents Wednesday morning, officials said the man’s body had been removed from the apartment.
Justin Tolomeo, FBI special agent in charge of the Milwaukee Division, said Wednesday investigators are not positive of the identity of the man killed in the apartment. He said the FBI removed evidence from the apartment before the planned detonation.
Prior to the controlled explosion, all pets and people were evacuated from the area and vehicles were towed from the parking lot so they would not be damaged.
The walls of nearby apartment buildings were reinforced with sandbags and some windows were covered with boards.
Officials worked for two days to remove hazardous materials that remained in the apartment following Monday’s fatal explosion. On Wednesday, they decided the safest way to handle the situation would be to have a “controlled detonation” to destroy the items. Before doing so, police cleared parking lots at nearby businesses and kept media, residents and others well away from the area.
The controlled detonation occurred at 1:31 p.m. Wednesday, Kreuziger said.
“We didn’t have any secondary explosions,” Kreuziger said, but he added there was a fire in the attic of the apartment that Beaver Dam Fire Department extinguished.
Structural engineers are inspecting the building to determine the severity of the damage, Kreuziger said.
“Some of the evacuees can move back tonight and tomorrow,” Kreuziger said. “They will be told directly at a private meeting.”
Building owner William Graper was at the scene and said he was relieved residents and all of their pets were safely evacuated. He had no further comment except to say the situation was “unbelievable.”
Explosive items were found in the garage rented by the tenant as well as the apartment.
Beaver Dam Police are working with the FBI, the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, the Dane County Bomb Squad and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Nicole Barlow and her 9-month-old daughter Evelyn live in one of the buildings across the courtyard from where the explosion occurred.
“We managed to get out but my son passed away in 2016 and his ashes are still in that apartment,” Barlow said.
At the time of the explosion Monday, Barlow said she heard the loud noise and was able to comfort Evelyn as she saw the damage in the courtyard with the blinds hanging out the window and emergency crews running to the scene.
“We were at Walmart at around 6 p.m. and were told we’d have to evacuate the apartment as well,” Barlow said. “Thankfully we were able to get out.”
An account has been opened for monetary donations. Donations can be made at any Horicon Bank, in Dodge County and can addressed to the Dodge County COAD/Beaver Dam Apartments. All donated funds will be used to assist the residents of building 109 Knaup Drive.