Controlled burn destroys explosives, leaves air quality questions

BEAVER DAM (WKOW) - Authorities say the controlled burn of a Beaver Dam apartment building destroyed potentially explosive material, as experts continue to monitor air quality in the inferno's aftermath. 

Beaver Dam Police say evacuated residents of an apartment building adjacent to the Knaup Drive burn site could return to their homes Friday, but say they would do so at their own risk.Beaver Dam Fire Chief Alan Mannel says the fire's debris was lightly doused with water Friday to help inhibit any spread of toxins.  And Mannel says the operation was handled carefully.

"You don't want to create another environmental issue with the run off,"  Mannel says.

Mannel says testing during the controlled burn showed acceptable air quality, but says testing Friday morning prompted federal officials to hold off on allowing returns to the evacuation zone."The air testing the EPA has done showed levels that they were not comfortable with,"  Mannel says.

The Prairie Ridge Assisted Living Center and its twenty-five residents are within the evacuation zone.  Center executive director Mark Forster says residents were able to return by Friday afternoon.

"They checked the interior of our building for air quality,"  Forster says.  "They're the ones who gave us the go-ahead to be back in our building." 

Mannel says the decision to use a controlled burn to destroy hazardous material left over from a deadly explosion in an apartment unit March 5, and subsequent detonations was reached in consultations with experts, including Madison Fire Chief Stephen Davis.  Davis dealt with explosive material in a Madison apartment building in February.

Authorities say 28 year old Benjamin Morrow died in the explosion in his unit, and is suspected of bomb-making.  Morrow worked as a quality control technician for Richelieu Foods, and previously worked as an associate scientist at a pharmaceutical company in Middleton.

The FBI is seeking information on Morrow's activities and associations.

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