Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"Fire In The Hole"

The weather in San Diego tends toward dull, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have excitement here; you all know about our earthquakes and fires, of course. We haven’t had either of those in a while, so we fill in with a house filled, literally, with the largest cache of illegal explosives ever found in the United States.

It all started with a guy hired to mow a lawn. He was sent by the landlord because the renter was not keeping the place up and the landlord was getting calls that the place was a nuisance. The guy mowing the lawn stepped on something that exploded, injuring him rather badly.

The police peeked into the house and promptly called the bomb squad. The bomb squad went into the house, then backed out slowly with their hands raised and said, “Oh hell no, we aren’t touching that mess,” and called the Feds. Seems the house is cluttered and so filled with explosive material that trying to remove it constitutes a high risk of blowing the whole thing up.

The renter has confessed to robbing three banks, but other than that will not say what the explosives are for or what he was doing. No ties to any organization of any type has been uncovered, nor any indication of what his plans were.

Here’s the fun part. Because it is too dangerous to remove the explosives from the house, they are going to dispose of them by burning the house down. This involves evacuating nearby houses, although they are assuring those homeowners that their homes will not be harmed, and telling others to “shelter in place” by staying indoors with the windows closed. Interstate 15 will be closed in both directions for several hours.

We are assured that the house will not explode. (So, why are they closing the freeway?) The house will burn normally, they tell us, although they admit that it will be “a pretty hot fire.” Um, I expect it will be. We are also assured that neither the smoke nor the residue will be toxic, but we should nonetheless not breathe the smoke. Presumably we should not eat the residue either.

San Diegans are a pretty staunch bunch, as nobody is very freaked out about any of this. Evacuated homeowners are simply appreciating a vacation and saying that’s why they have insurance, and everybody else seems to be looking forward to watching the fun. We have nice weather for it; forecast is sunny with a high in the upper seventies.


  1. Sounds like an entertaining event. I like the laid back attitude down there. The neighbors are right. That is what insurance is for. Unless the ins. co. deems it an act of war to avoid paying any claims that may arise. That would take away some of the money needed to sponser football after all.

  2. Ex-Bomb Squad Guy4:55 PM

    Depending on the type of explosives involved, a fire might not be the best way to go. Some explosives will detonate when burned. Others, like dynamite, can be safely burned. In the case of dynamite, there's not much residue left.

    There's also the issue of toxic fumes being released into the air from the burning process. Anyone living downwind from the burn site would need to be evacuated to the upwind side. Basically, an evacuation area of the cubed root of the explosives times 100 would be the fragmentation area and a distance of about 450 meters to several kilometers downwind for hazardous/toxic fumes.