Pipe bomb reports commonplace

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No arrests have been made in the case of a pipe bomb found and exploded Monday in South Carson City.

Although evidence was gathered where the bomb was found - between Clear Creek Road and Highway 50 West - little is known about its origins.

"It could have been a kid or it could have been a hobbyist," Chief Sheriff's Deputy Scott Burau said. The bomb was found by a motorcycle rider at 4:30 p.m. between Highway 50 West and Clear Creek Road 1.7 miles from the valley floor.

The five-member Tahoe-Douglas Bomb Squad cleared the area and, at 6:30 p.m., detonated the bomb. The operation closed short stretches of eastbound Highway 50 West and Clear Creek Road for approximately 10 minutes. The concussion shook the windows of waiting cars. No houses were affected.

The device was described as being a foot long and 4 inches in diameter, constructed of steel pipe.

The bomb squad is no stranger to pipe bomb calls, in fact they are commonplace, said member Aaron Crawford, an investigator with the Douglas County Sheriff's Department. In its area of coverage - South Lake Tahoe, Douglas County and Carson City - the squad responds to an average of 60 calls a year.

"We go to any call that has to do with explosives," he said. The most common type is a pipe bomb, and calls are well split between those types of calls, suspicious package calls and explosive material pickups. Explosive materials can include fireworks, old blasting caps, TNT, bullets or gunpowder.

If a suspected bomb is found, the squad will usually opt to detonate it using one of several methods including outside explosives or a high-pressure blast of water. Because the terrain was more suitable for an explosive blast, that was the method used for Monday's bomb.

The squad is comprised of two Douglas County sheriff's deputies and three firefighters from the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Department.

Crawford said Monday's bomb was above average in size compared to other pipe bombs he sees. It also looked to be rigged with a more sophisticated, electrical triggering device, as opposed to a traditional fuse. Two electrical wires were poking out of the end of the bomb.

"It was a pretty good size," he said. "Usually we find pipe bombs that were left when somebody was experimenting and it doesn't work as planned."

Crawford stressed the danger that pipe bombs present to children who make or find them.

"We see a lot of kids experimenting," he said. "If they get powder on the threads, it can blow up in their faces. Kids can die from this."

Since the proliferation of the Internet, Crawford said, information about bomb making has become much more accessible.

The explosion of a pipe bomb, even one constructed from PVC pipe, blows shrapnel into the air, causing injuries. In most cases, the pressure inside a pipe will build up, causing the pipe to split in half before the caps blow off the ends.


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