California officials destroy explosive-filled home

REDDING, Calif. (AP) - February 16, 2014

The chemicals, gunpowder, primers for firearms cartridges and other materials found in the house in a sparsely populated area of Redding earlier this month made it too unstable for deputies to even walk on the property without risking a blast, Shasta County sheriff's Lt. Dave Kent said.

Sheriff's officials consulted with water and air quality officials before starting the incineration with a remote-ignited flame at midday Sunday, and the fire went off without incident, he said.

"What's left of the residence is still smoldering, so now we are in a cool-off period before officials can render that property safe for other residents to come back," Kent said. "No other homes outside of that property caught fire, so that was very good for us and for the residents."

Authorities had been waiting for the weather to clear before incinerating the home, and Sunday's clear skies provided good conditions. It could be up to 24 hours before authorities can go onto the property to check the area, and once they determine it is safe, evacuees will be let back in, Kent said.

"We're taking every precaution to make sure the property is rendered safe," he said.

The mandatory evacuations around the residence began Feb. 7 and were expanded on Friday, bringing the total to about 46 homes under evacuation orders, Kent said.

Authorities found the combustible material on Feb. 6 after responding to an explosion at the home that took off a man's hand.

The resident, identified as D. Ray East, 63, lost his left hand above the wrist, broke his right elbow and injured his right eye in the blast, Kent said.

East told investigators he was making fuel for model rockets. He was hospitalized but has since been released and is at a hotel where authorities can contact him, but he has not been arrested, Kent said.

East's attorney, Jeffrey Stotter, told the Record Searchlight of Redding last week that East regrets the inconvenience he has caused his neighbors but doesn't think the materials at his home pose a threat.

The sheriff's office and local officials disagreed. The Shasta County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an emergency declaration, and the sheriff's office expanded the evacuation area to a radius of 2,000 feet from the house.

The Red Cross set up an evacuation center, but officials said most of the displaced residents were staying with friends or family.

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