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Escondido Bomb-House Burned, Toxic Testing Begins

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Video published December 10, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: What's next now that the Escondido home, filled with explosive materials has burned to the ground? KPBS Environment reporter Ed Joyce gives an update including the impact the fire had on air quality.

An unusual safety operation took place yesterday in Escondido. County sheriffs, multiple fire agencies and the bomb squad torched a house filled with explosive material too dangerous to remove. Dozens of homes around George Jakubec's rented house on Via Scott were evacuated, and a section of Interstate 15 was closed for hours. Joining me now with more on the story is KPBS Environment reporter Ed Joyce.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

NEUTRAL SAFETY OPERATION TOOK PLACE YESTERDAY. MULTIPLE FIRE AGENCIES AND THE BOMB SQUAD TORCHED A HOUSE FILLED WITH EXPLOSIVE MATERIAL TOO DANGEROUS TO REMOVE. DOZENS OF HOMES AROUND VIA SCOTT WERE EVACUATED. A SECTION OF I-15 WAS CLOSED FOR HOURS. JOINING ME WITH MORE ON THE STORY IS ENVIRONMENT REPORTER ED JOYCE. IT SOUNDS AS THOUGH THERE IS SOME BACKGROUND HERE WE SHOULD HAVE ABOUT HOW THE EXPLOSIVES WERE DISCOVERED.

IT WAS DISCOVERED IN NOVEMBER. LAST MONTH A LANDSCAPER WAS WALKING IN THE BACKYARD OF THE RENTED HOME ON VIA SCOTT. THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION THAT CALLED ATTENTION TO WHAT WAS GOING ON THERE. FIRE OFFICIALS CAME OUT. LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS CAME OUT. THEY DISCOVERED UNSTABLE EXPLOSIVE COMPOUNDS IN THE RENTED HOME.

DO WOE KNOW ABOUT THE LANDSCAPE PERSON?

I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE LANDSCAPER WAS DOING THERE?

TELL US ABOUT THE CHEMICALS. ARE THESE COMPLICATED CHEMICALS? OR EASY TO GET?

SOME COULD BE MADE USING STARTING MATERIALS OFF THE SHELF. SOME ARE USED IN MEDICAL APPLICATIONS. THAT HOME WAS SO CLUTTERED AND FILLED WITH SOLVENTS, ACIDS AND CHEMICALS, SUCH A CLUTTERED HOUSE, ALMOST AN EPISODE OF HOARDERS THAT OFFICIALS DETERMINED IT WAS TOO DANGEROUS TO GO THROUGH EVERYTHING AND REMOVE THE CHEMICALS.

THAT'S AN AMAZING DECISION. THE DECISION TO SAY WE NEED TO BURN DOWN IT OTHER THAN CLEAR IT OUT.

THEY FIGURED IT WAS THE SAFEST AND BEST WAY TO VAPORIZE THE HIGHLY UNSTABLE COMPOUNDS. ONE WORKS IN A FRICTION WHERE YOU COULD STEP ON SOMETHING, AS THE LANDSCAPER DID IN THE BACKYARD, AND IT WOULD EXPLODE.

I UNDERSTAND SOMEBODY ELSE STEPPED ON SOMETHING AND GOT A BURNED FOOT. I GUESS VERY VOLATILE. HIS ATTORNEY FILED AN APPEAL TO STOP THE BURN FROM HAPPENING. HE WAS CONCERNED THERE WOULD BE EVIDENCE INSIDE THAT MIGHT WORK TO THE DEFENSE'S CASE. WHAT DETAILS WERE DISCUSSED IN COURT THAT LEAD TO THE JUDGE'S DECISION TO CONTINUE WITH THE BURN ANYWAY?

THE DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAID THERE MIGHT BE DOCUMENT OR OTHER MATERIALS IN THERE THAT WOULD HELP HIS DEFENSE OF HIS CLIENT. HE MENTIONED A MINING BOOK OR DOCUMENTS AND OTHER THINGS. THE JUDGE DETERMINED, ALONG WITH HAVING HEARD TESTIMONY FROM THE BOMB ARSON FOLKS, THAT IT WAS TOO DANGEROUS GO IN THERE IF THERE WERE ANY DOCUMENTS TO RETRIEVE. HE SIDED WITH THE EXPERTS AND RULES IT WAS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN AND IT DIDN'T.

HEADLINES WERE COAST-TO- COAST SAYING THE BURN WAS HAPPENING. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?

ONCE IT KICKED IN IT BURNED IN ABOUT 30 MINUTES. THE HOUSE STRUCTURE WASN'T DOWN IN 30 MINUTE . THE COME POINTS VAPOR RISED IN 20 MINUTES.

THERE WAS CONCERN AHEAD OF TIME THERE MIGHT BE PARTICULATES IN THE AIR. SOME TOXIC MATERIAL. WHAT ARE THE AUTHORITIES DOING TO MAKE SURE THAT THE TOXIC CHEMICALS WERE DESTROYED.

THEY HAD CHEMICAL DETECTORS SPREAD AROUND THE AREA. STAFFERS WERE THREE MILES AWAY MONITORING THE AIR. THEY SAID THE CHEMICAL MONITORS SHOW HAD THE THE POLLUTANTS IN THE AIR WERE LOWER THAN NORMAL FOR THAT TIME OF DAY PRIMARILY BECAUSE I-15 WAS CLOSED SO WE DENT HAVE CARBON MONOXIDE EMISSIONS FROM CARS.

YOU SPOKE TO SOMEONE WHO GAVE YOU A BACKGROUND ON THIS.

THE AIR POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT IN SAN DIEGO SAID IT WAS LOWER THAN NORMAL EVEN.

THE ACCUSED RENTED THE HOUSE. WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE OWNER AND THE LIABILITY THERE?

WELL, APPARENTLY THE HOMEOWNERS OUT OF LUCK. MOST INSURANCE POLICIES, PROPERTY INSURANCE POLICIES HAVE EXCLUSIONS. EMINENT DOMAIN DOES NOT APPLY HERE. ONE EXPERT SAID THERE IS A RECOURSE OF GOING TO A CALIFORNIA VICTIM'S COMPENSATION FUND FOR SOMETHING THAT INVOLVES HAZARDOUS MATERIALS. THE HOMEOWNER IS OUT OF LUCK. THE MAN IS IN JAIL FACING FEDERAL CHARGES.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

YOU'RE WELCOME.

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