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Crews burn Escondido 'bomb-making factory'

December 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A house police called a "bomb-making factory" was set aflame in Escondido on Thursday. The house was so packed with explosives that authorities said they had no choice but to burn it to the ground.It was the largest collection of home explosives ever found on one property in the U.S.

Smoke quickly intensified in the area after crews ignited the home with remotely controlled devices just before 11 a.m. in the 1900 block of Via Scott. Residents of more than 70 homes in the area had already been evacuated.

"It worked out perfectly," said Rober Kard, director of the Air Pollution Control District of San Diego County. "The components in the house burned well. We're not worried about air toxics downwind."

The burn was originally scheduled for 9 a.m., but crews had to wait for the right time so that the plume smoke would go straight up.

"They wanted to wait for that perfect moment," said Jan Caldwell of the San Diego Sheriff's Department during a press conference.

The plume drifted toward the southeast as planned, over Interstate 15 and toward sparsely populated fields.

The strategy was to have a very hot fire. The average fire burns at 1,200 degrees, but this fire was estimated to burn at 2,000 degrees.

Exploding ammunition and grenades could be heard making popping sounds as the home was destroyed.

There were more than a dozen air-pollution sensors placed around the neighborhood to monitor the air quality during the burn.

"There was a little bit of a spike right after the fire started, and then it went right back down," Caldwell said. "It was never really very toxic."

A fire quite like this had never been tried before anywhere in the world. Nearly all of the home was destroyed in about 30 minutes.

The house was first discovered on Nov. 18 when a gardener suffered serious injuries after accidentally stepping on explosives.

The man who lived in the home, 54-year-old George Jakubec, has pleaded not guilty to charges of making destructive devices and robbing three banks.

"For such a beautiful day, to see such a reminder there is evil in small pockets," said neighbor Cameron Curry.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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