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Bomb, arson unit observes 50th anniversary

By: Jim Erickson

Past and current members of the St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit gathered at the group’s 50th-anniversary observance.

The St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit recently observed the 50th anniversary of its founding with a gathering at the county administration building in Clayton. Past and current members of the specialized group attended the event, which included a display of equipment the unit uses in its work.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, who headed the unit from 1996-98 when he was a sergeant, hosted the observance.

A joint effort between the St. Louis City and County police departments since 2013, the unit now is staffed with a sergeant/supervisor and four detectives from each organization.

Detectives assigned to the unit receive specialized training in fire/arson investigations and incidents involving explosives and are required to achieve certification as a fire investigator, hazardous materials technician and bomb technician.

All of the certifications involve extensive training that includes completion of the one-week bomb technician course at the Redstone Arsenal in the Huntsville, Alabama, area.

Unit members are trained and equipped to conduct render-safe procedures on explosive devices containing a weapon-of-mass-destruction [WMD] threat.

“I cannot overstate how important the bomb and arson unit is in today’s world,” Belmar said. “These detectives undergo extensive and very specialized training to accomplish an incredibly dangerous job on a daily basis.”

Last year, the unit conducted 503 investigations, 80 involving explosives and 423 related to fires.

In addition to serving St. Louis City and County, the unit is available to respond to incidents anywhere in the region where its expertise is needed and requested. In the past, unit members also have served in Jefferson, Franklin and Washington Counties and in Southern Illinois.

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