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ATF training helps local first-responders learn investigative techniques for bomb blast scenes


KIRTLAND — Local and state law enforcement officers set off more than a dozen explosions Monday.

On purpose.

It was all part of a training  program by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives being hosted for the first time by Farmington Police Department.

The week-long course is designed to help officers and agents gain knowledge on techniques to help investigate a scene where an explosive was detonated.

The sessions are being held at the Safety City complex in Kirtland where ATF agents are teaching members of the bomb unit, crime scene investigators and firefighters.

"One of the main ideas is to reconstruct what happened, based on reviewing the evidence at the scene" said Farmington police detective Sgt. Matthew Vieth.

Monday afternoon's workshop had members of the class witness ATF staff detonate 12 different types of explosives, according to ATF special agent Kevin Wolfe.

It followed the classroom session Monday morning where students learned about improvised explosive devices and the components used to build a bomb.

"The class is designed to help them investigate if there is a post-blast incident or an explosion-type incident," Wolfe said.

In an outdoor training area at the Safety City complex, Wolfe described the types of explosives and how they were constructed before detonating them.

Some of the explosives detonated included black powder, C4, ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil) and tannerite (ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder), according to Wolfe.

One example that was detonated was made from a mixture of nitromethane fuel and toilet paper.

"It gives them an idea of what they will see when they are on scene," Wolfe said. "(It shows) how dangerous explosives are and how to handle them properly."

Smokeless and black powder were also ignited to demonstrate the different type of burn patterns left behind.

Agents also threw Molotov cocktails at a brick wall to show how the fire from the explosive can spread.

Rick Gonzales, a fire investigator for the Los Alamos Fire Department, said he was interested in learning about the blast patterns of the explosions.

"This isn't something you can just read from a book," Gonzales said. "It's always better to actually experience it and talk to people who experienced it in the field."

The demonstrations of explosives made with black and smokeless powder stood out to Gonzales.

He said he is more likely to see these explosives in the field since the ingredients are available at sporting good stores.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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