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Dec 03

Officials on House Full of Explosives: “Let’s Set It on Fire!” – Updated

by azmanam | Categories: chemical safety, science news | (55939 Views)

WATCH LIVE!

Several local tv outlets will be live streaming (did stream) the controlled burn at 9am pacific time (noon eastern) 11am pacific (2pm eastern).  I’ll be teaching class at that time, so someone let me know if it’s uneventful or, er, eventful.

NBC

CBS

ABC

FOX


On November 19, a gardener for Escondido, CA, resident George Djura Jakubec was walking in the backyard when he stepped on something causing it to detonate.  The explosion caused burns and abrasions up one leg, under one arm, and on his head and eyebrows, and he was hospitalized.

Officers started searching the yard and home… then quickly retreated when they found numerous explosive compounds and explosive-making materials in and around the house.  According to various reports, items found on the property include:

  • 9-12 pounds (4-6 Kg) of homemade HMTD, PETN, and ETN (which authorities claim may be the largest discovery of its type on US soil…)
  • 13 grenades
  • 9 detonators
  • bags of metal pieces and ball bearings
  • semiautomatic weapons
  • several gallons of nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid
  • 50 pounds (23 Kg) of hexamine
  • books about explosives
  • a tracker hidden in currency during bank robberies

And then they decided to call off the search because the house was too unsafe for offices.  Who knows what else may be in un-searched corners of the house.

Not surprisingly, Jakubec, a naturalized US citizen originally from Serbia, is in jail on $5 million bail and is charged with more than 25 felonies relating to explosives and bank robbery.  He pleaded not guilty.

Officials say there is no safe way to remove all the explosives from the house, so the best way to neutralize the danger is to burn the house to the ground.  They plan to evacuate 200 homes, build temporary fire-safe walls between the house and its neighbors, spray the wall and neighboring houses with fire-retardant foam, pre-heat the house so it ignites quickly, then start a fire.  They plan to wait until a time after morning rush hour when the winds are calm before starting the fire.  They will need to close part of nearby interstate 15 because of the house’s proximity to the highway.  Gov. Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency for San Diego County.

Yikes.

Update (12/4): The North County Times is releasing images taken from inside the house.  Very disturbing.   Very disturbing indeed.  It’s like that one episode of CSI where almost the exact same thing happened.  They’re clearing the house, when the one CSI opens a fridge in the garage.  Then he slowly says to the other CSIs in that low, dramatic tone of voice. ‘stop what you’re doing and slowly walk out of the house.’  They ended up doing the same thing to that house, only they detonated the explosives and esploded the house instead of lighting it on fire.  Click the image for all 12 pictures.

News Stories:

  • 11/21 story on initial searches of house
  • 11/23 story on suspect and house searches
  • 11/24 story on family history of suspect
  • 11/30 story on decision to burn down house
  • 11/30 story on execution of search warrant and list of items found in house
  • The search warrant
  • 12/2 story on preparations to community for burning down the house
  • 12/2 story on safety preparations being taken before burning down the house

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  1. Jack Bauer

    The Serbian guy is probably just upset that his hero Novak Djokovic didn’t win the US Open.

  2. JG

    > Officials say there is no safe way to remove all the explosives from the house, so the best way to neutralize the danger is to burn the house to the ground.

    What a load of fear-mongering, terror-creating crap. The military routinely deals with disposal like this. Presumably local officials were insisting on 100% certainty of “no problems” which isn’t even possible. Burning to the ground has just as many negative adverse outcomes.

  3. CJ

    JG> They may deal with commercial and industrial explosives, but many of the homebrew mixes are too difficult to deal with, particularly in large quantities, or confined spaces. Having (personally) worked extensively with TATP, DADP, HMTD, etc., they’re not to be messed with. Not every bomb can be defused, and not every mess can be cleaned up. Sometimes you just have to dispose of it in place.

  4. cookingwithsolvents

    Looking at those pics, I understand why they want to burn it in place. WHAT ABOUT SHRAPNEL???!?!? Some of those pics show grenades in cardboard boxes for crying out loud!!

    The whole thing is super-scary.

  5. J-bone

    I was wondering about shrapnel too. The 16 ft retaining wall might contain the flames, but bits and pieces of those containers (or the house) might make their way out, and the 15 is a major freeway to be getting showered with debris like that (not to mention the surrounding neighborhood). Best of luck to all involved, especially those with houses in the area.

  6. ickypills

    Fire Marshall Bill should be able to handle this one!!

  7. Alchemist

    Judging from the improvised blasting caps in one of the pictures, I guess that this guy knows what use a primary HE has. Thus I guess that there won’t be big amounts of organic peroxides laying around, because there’s no need for blasting caps to set them off.
    The rest of the (commercial) explosives can be safely handled by anyone familiar with explosives.
    So I see no reason to burn his house, waste a lot of money and further increase the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

  8. Jonadab the Unsightly One

    > I guess that this guy knows what use
    > a primary HE has. Thus I guess that there
    > won’t be big amounts of organic peroxides
    > laying around, because there’s no need for
    > blasting caps to set them off.

    You may be right, but you’re using the outcome of guesswork as a basis for further guessing, which is a pretty reckless way to make decisions.

    If there’s one word that springs to my mind based on the photos, it’s “hodgepodge”. I mean, the place like a cross between a college dorm room, a condemned warehouse, a munitions factory, and earthquake rubble.

    What kind of person strings Christmas lights from the ceiling to decorate a room that’s such a mess you can’t walk across it without tripping? I’ll tell you what kind of person does that: the sort who leaves random things more or less anywhere, that’s what kind. I had a college roommate like that (sans the explosives and weapons), and the only real pattern to what you’d find laying around the room was that it didn’t usually make sense. Things he’d never had any actual use for? Check. Things that didn’t necessarily fit with the other things? Check. Things he’d long since forgotten about? Check. Things he didn’t even know what they were? Check.

    True slobs aren’t just messy in the sense of not bothering to vacuum and dust and leaving stacks of paper sitting on the desk instead of filing them. The true slob goes way beyond that, into the realm of not always paying a whole lot of attention to exactly what they have or precisely where they put it. From the photos, I’m thinking this dude was a true slob. What’s behind that pile of old magazines? I don’t know, and *neither does he* (the home owner). It could be practically anything.

    Throw in an obvious and presumably unhealthy fascination with munitions and explosives and enough knowledge and motivation to make such things at home, and it could be pretty hard to accurately predict every last thing you might find laying around in there.

    The decision to burn the place down is understandably unpopular, and personally I’d have liked to see them wait a bit longer before doing it, but also I can definitely understand the desire of local law enforcement to *not* explore every last nook and cranny of the place too closely. The place was fundamentally unsafe.

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