UCPD squad detonates two WWI grenades

Joy Chen/Staff

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UCPD's bomb squad detonated two World War I grenades found in a San Rafael resident's home Friday.

At about 12:37 p.m., the San Rafael Police Department received a call from the resident informing them that she had in her possession two WWI munitions - a German egg grenade and a French mortar round - passed down to her by her grandfather who brought them home after the war, according to UCPD Capt. Margo Bennett. The resident's husband had recently become uncomfortable with the grenades in their home and convinced her to consult the police, according to a statement from the San Rafael Police Department.

Since the San Rafael police do not have a bomb squad of their own, the department has a contract with the UCPD Explosive Ordinance Devices team for such cases. On Friday, the UCPD squad responded with a team from the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield and followed the protocol for disabling ammunitions by transporting them to the Marin Recycling Center where they used a counter charge to disarm the devices.

No arrests were made, since the items had been passed down as souvenirs from the war.

The UCPD EOD team is a nationally accredited bomb squad that has been operating since 1971 and trains with the FBI. The squad is composed of four fully certified bomb technicians - including one commander - and two assistants who train extensively for about a year before they are certified. UCPD has agreements with over 20 police agencies in the area, including all departments in Marin County.

The squad usually receives around a dozen calls a year from local departments, ranging from reports of suspicious items and unattended luggage to actual explosives, such as the ones found Friday.

According to Bennett, the squad received more than 100 calls in 2001 following Sept. 11. The team also trains with its own bomb-disabling robot.

The Berkeley Police Department also has a bomb squad which has collaborated with the UCPD team.

In a similar incident last month where UCPD was also called in for assistance, a man delivered two World War II gas grenades found in his deceased father's shop to the San Rafael Fire Department. The streets around the station were closed temporarily as a safety precaution. The UCPD team transported the grenades to a secure location where they were detonated.

San Rafael Battalion Chief Jeff Rowan said these cases are slightly more common in San Rafael than in other cities, but added that no serious incidents involving injuries have resulted in recent decades.

"It's an unusual occurrence," Rowan said. "We do have an older community with older homes. When a family member dies, sometimes the heirs or siblings come to clean up the home and find these things forgotten in the garage."

Contact Adelyn at [email protected]

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