Behind the scenes training with the Albuquerque bomb squad

If you’ve lived in Albuquerque for a while, you know the Albuquerque Police Department’s bomb squad stays busy. It’s often a false alarm, but they also show up to scenes where their expertise can mean the difference between life and death. 

“On call 24 hours, seven days a week, 365,” said APD Bomb Squad Sgt. Zac Cancilla.

The Albuquerque bomb squad constantly trains because they know the power of a bomb can be devastating. The city saw the aftermath of one just last week when the bomb squad was called to the Smith’s on Coors following a deadly explosion behind the store. 

“We are fortunate enough and unfortunate enough, I should say, that we have a lot of real world situations here in the city of Albuquerque,” Sgt. Cancilla said.

In the city, the bomb squad responded to 118 calls in 2018. This year they’ve already responded to 22 bomb calls.

Everything from unattended packages and bags that catch someone’s attention, to bomb threats and deploying the robot to check for booby traps at crime scenes.

“If we are requested to respond, we are going to treat it as such until that threat assessment and the tools that we have in our training can negate that,” said Sgt. Cancilla.

The team also has to train for a minimum of 16 hours a month and they have to do it all in 85-pound bomb suits.

“The suit is rated to protect you from the blast overpressure coming off of one stick of dynamite, 10 feet away,” he explained.

They aren’t the only ones who train. The squad’s trained dogs, 2-year-old Kaya and 10-year-old Fallon, also have to stay sharp.

“She will sniff black powder, smokeless powder, TNT, dynamite, det cord, C-4,” explained bomb squad Officer James Williamson. “You name it she’ll find it if it’s an explosive.”

The bomb squad says a building sweep can take three to four officers more than a day to complete. One of their trained dogs can complete the same task in an hour.

The department currently has five full-time officers and two dogs on staff. They are hoping to add another dog and officer to the team by the end of the year.

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