ESCONDIDO, Calif. —Two days after an explosives-laden house was destroyed in a carefully orchestrated burn that played out on television screens across the country, the site of the so-called bomb factory was declared safe Saturday by California authorities.
"Thursday's controlled fire destroyed all of the explosives and hazardous materials at the site," San Diego County said in a statement issued a day after a sheriff's bomb and arson unit sifted through the ashes and debris of the charred property and found no danger.
Crews scraped several inches of dirt off the half-acre lot to ensure there was no dangerous residue left.
On Monday, state, county and private workers will begin hauling soil, ash and scrap from the house to a landfill in a cleanup expected to take until the middle of the week, the statement said.
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A gardener stepped on residue from an explosive substance last month and set off a blast that led to the discovery of the home that prosecutors say contained the largest amount of certain homemade explosives ever found in a single U.S. location.
Fire and law enforcement officials said the home was filled with so much dangerous material that they had to burn it to the ground to protect the neighborhood.
After much of the neighborhood was evacuated and more than 40 bomb experts and eight national laboratories analyzed the situation, they ignited the home remotely Thursday, then stood back and watched it disintegrate. Crews had built a 16-foot firewall and covered it with fire-resistant gel to protect the closest house, and the fire remained within the property.
The toxins inside the home were neutralized within 20 minutes without any major explosions as experts had predicted after tests, officials said.
There were no large explosions during the fire, but cracks and pops could be heard, possibly from hand grenades and ammunition inside the home.
To help the fire reach temperatures of 1,800 degrees or more, holes were bored into the roof of the house to provide the fire with the oxygen needed to burn quickly. A house fire is usually about 1,200 degrees, fire officials said.
Sheriff Bill Gore said afterward that it was a "textbook" operation that would be studied if similar situations arose in the United States.
"Everything they said would happen, happened," said Todd Newman, chief of the San Marcos Fire Department. The San Marcos and Escondido fire departments stood by in case the fire spread.
George Jakubec, 54, the unemployed software consultant who was renting the house, has pleaded not guilty to charges of making destructive devices and robbing three banks.
Jakubec remains in federal jail in downtown San Diego, charged with bomb-making and bank robbery. Questions remain about his alleged motives in stockpiling the explosive materials, building homemade grenades and keeping blasting caps, ammunition and jars of acid.
During questioning, Jakubec admitted to authorities that he kept explosive materials. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in federal custody.