ANDERSON: Dangers, questions remain after hundreds of pounds of explosives found
UPDATED: Saturday, Mar. 3, 11:30 p.m.
SEE ORIGINAL STORY AND UPDATES BELOW
ANDERSON — Shasta County’s Director of Emergency Services has declared a local emergency following last Tuesday’s discovery of several hundred pounds of explosives inside an outbuilding/barn on a rural property at 5747 Happy Valley Road in Anderson. The explosives were discovered by deputies during a residential burglary investigation and their unexpected discovery prompted the mandatory evacuations of nearly 100 homes and forced Happy Valley Elementary School to shut down for the day.
The day of the harrowing discovery the Shasta County Multi-Agency Bomb Squad successfully and safely detonated about 150 pounds of explosives in five separate blasts. Although bomb squad members detonated the TNT within two-foot deep holes, blast noise was reported by 911 callers from as far east as Palo Cedro and Cottonwood to the south.
As of Wednesday, “approximately 150-200 pounds of explosives” remained at the site, however, throughout the day bomb squad members “continued to locate more explosives,” Shasta County Sheriff’s Captain Pat Kropholler later explained in an update to area residents, who were already frustrated and anxious after spending much of the previous day evacuated from their homes.
During the investigation, bomb squad members determined the explosives had been manufactured between the 1950‘s and 1960’s, and had been on the property and hadn’t been moved for several decades.
Although bomb squad members had planned on continuing the dangerous and lengthy process of clearing as much of the dangerous explosives from the home as possible, their efforts were delayed Friday due to rainstorms that moved through the area, sheriff’s Lt. Anthony Bertain explained at the time.
Despite the delay, deputies, bomb squad members, firefighters, paramedics and other officials were back at the residence Saturday, and officials were able to remove an additional 12 pounds of explosives from the second-floor of the barn where they had been found. The TNT was destroyed in two separate blasts at a location off of Shawn Drive.
Despite a significant portion of the explosives being destroyed, “due to the significant age of the explosives, and that they are considerably more volatile when moved,” officials eventually decided that to ensure the safety of the public, the remaining explosives will remain in place “until a meticulous search of the property, outbuildings and premises, by the Bomb Squad, is completed,” said Kropholler.
“There is a tentative plan in place to mitigate any potential threat from the decaying explosives by setting fire to the structure rather than to continue to remove them from the premises,” Kropholler explained. “The fire will neutralize the explosives rendering them inert. Until this incident is concluded there is 24-hour security on site.”
The structure that holds the remaining explosives is tentatively scheduled to be burned to the ground Monday. Authorities will begin their operation that morning at 8 a.m., and the fire is planned to be set around noon, according to officials.
Officials are expected to begin by closing the intersection of Happy Valley Road and Palm Avenue and Happy Valley Road and Flowers Lane.
All residents with homes within a half-mile radius have already been notified they will be under mandatory evacuation orders and will be allowed to leave the area, but may not re-enter until officials have given the all clear.
Although just outside the mandatory evacuation zone, Happy Valley Elementary School will be closed for the day. In an email to local media, Superintendent Rich Gifford explained, “Student safety is our primary concern and this precautionary closure is to assure their safety. Classes are expected to resume on Tuesday, March 6.”
Deputies have urged area residents to be prepared to be away from their homes the entire day and the American Red Cross will have an evacuation center set up at the Happy Valley Community Center, at 5400 Happy Valley Road.
Meanwhile, the new homeowners of the property, Steven and Tammy Joseph, of Olinda, CA, are continuing to cooperate with the ongoing investigation. According to Kropholler, the Josephs purchased the property, which consists of a home in the process of being remodeled and an outbuilding/barn structure, just four months ago and were unaware of the presence of the explosives when they bought the property.
Although officials were able to safely move and detonate a portion of the explosives and are plan on destroying the remaining TNT on Monday, after assessing the circumstances as well as the “clear and present danger” the old and unstable explosives posed and still pose to the public, the county’s Director of Emergency Services, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko, declared the emergency and his proclamation will be officially presented to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors for ratification, Wednesday, March 6.
As for residents in the surrounding area, hundreds of whom lived within a half mile of the home and were already forced to evacuate from their homes last Tuesday, they are left wondering how the sheriff’s current plan to destroy the remaining explosives by burning them could affect their families health and their homes.
To receive updates and notifications regarding this incident and others can can sign up for the county’s notification system by visiting shascom911.com and clicking the Code-RED icon at the bottom of the page.
ORIGINAL STORY: Bomb squad investigating after “large cache of explosives” discovered at rural property
HAPPY VALLEY — Several hundred residents were evacuated from the homes and spent a long day unable to return for several hours while a sheriff’s bomb squad worked to render safe several hundred pounds of explosives found at a rural residential Anderson property, Tuesday, Deb. 27.
The explosives that led to the evacuations were discovered by new property homeowners as they cleaned out an outbuilding/barn at 5747 Happy Valley Road. According to officials the new owners, who reside in Olinda, CA, purchased the property just four months ago.
Shasta County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad was summoned to the property after deputies confirmed the presence of “a large cache of explosives” that were discovered and reported by the home’s new owners.
As the explosive crisis was unfolding residents who live within a half-mile radius of the home were evacuated, forced to find somewhere else to await the all-clear signal.
Although evacuees were encouraged to seek temporary shelter from the day’s sporadic rains at Shasta County Fairgrounds’ Fucero Hall, some area residents, not realizing just how long the investigation would continue and with nowhere else to go, spent several hours sitting in their parked cars, outside the potential blast zone.
A number of area roads, including Happy Valley Road at Palm Avenue, Flowers Lane at Happy Valley Road and Warwick Place were all affected by the ongoing activity and students from Happy Valley Elementary School were released for the day and bussed to West Valley High School where their parents were allowed to pick them up with proper identification.
Meanwhile, those who live in what officials classified as the “precautionary evacuation zone” were detoured at northbound Happy Valley Road to Oak Road to Hawthorne Avenue.
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Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.