Officials say a suspicious device that closed down a section of Tower Avenue for hours and led to the evacuation of Superior Fire Department headquarters Oct. 1 wasn't a bomb. Superior Assistant Police Chief Matt Markon said officials don't know what it is, but tests showed the grainy substance inside it wasn't flammable or incendiary.

Because of that, it won't be sent to the Wisconsin Crime Lab.

The approximately 1-foot cylindrical device with a cap on one end and electrical tape on the other was spotted on the sidewalk outside Dr. Kevin M. Mikel's dental office, next door to the city’s new fire hall, at about 9:15 a.m. Oct. 1. City officials deemed the item a “credible bomb threat,” and Tower Avenue was temporarily shut down between 31st and 38th streets out of precaution while the device and area were isolated. The fire hall was also evacuated.

The Marathon and Oneida County Joint Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad was called in to handle and test the pipe-shaped object. There was no cost to call the bomb squad in, Markon said, because it is in the same Aligned Law Enforcement Response Team region as Superior.

Law enforcement offices in the region share their specialty resources with each other, providing mutual aid. Superior, for example, houses a Bearcat and tactical response team that other agencies in the region could request.

It takes about five hours for the bomb squad to travel to Superior.

Superior Police Officer Bradley Jago controls the department’s robot near the front of the Superior Fire Department Headquarters on Tower Avenue on Tuesday, Oct. 1. A possible bomb was reported to the department on the sidewalk near the SFD.  (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior Police Officer Bradley Jago controls the department’s robot near the front of the Superior Fire Department Headquarters on Tower Avenue on Tuesday, Oct. 1. A possible bomb was reported to the department on the sidewalk near the SFD. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

No federal response

The Minnesota National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth has a bomb squad, but it is considered a federal resource and can't be tapped for civilian police events.

According to Maj. Scott Hawks, public affairs officer with the Minnesota National Guard, activating any guard asset to support non-military communities requires approval from state Homeland Security Emergency Management, the Adjutant General and the Governor’s office. Activation of any bomb squad outside its primary jurisdiction falls under Homeland Security Emergency Management control for activation.

When the Duluth Police Department needs a bomb squad, they contact the State Duty Officer.

"The first resource they use for our area is St. Paul PD," Duluth Police Sgt. Kelly Greenwalt said.

The DPD has been working with the 148th on a contingency plan, but it is not yet in place.

"This plan would only be implemented when we have information that requires a rapid response," Greenwalt siad. "In the event we utilize the 148th, St. Paul will also be mobilized. St. Paul would take over when properly briefed."

It may sound odd that a suspected bomb might not require a rapid response, but in many situations law enforcement can secure and area to assure there's no casualties if it goes off.

"This would allow us to slow down," Greenwalt said. "Slowing down allows us to collect more information and approach the situation safer with better knowledge. While we are doing this St. Paul PD’s bomb techs are mobilizing as fast as they can. "