SAN MARCOS, Calif. – A San Diego County house where a man was operating a virtual bomb factory is so full of dangerous explosive material that it must be burned down, authorities said at a town hall meeting Tuesday night.
"There is no viable method to render the property safe," Sheriff Bill Gore told about 300 residents gathered at a middle school. "It is also not habitable. The most effective way is to destroy the residence by fire."
The audience gasped as the sheriff and other county officials showed slides of the rental home of George Djura Jakubec, which was full of hand grenades and powdered explosives in jars and in clumps on the floor.
Last week, explosives experts pulled out of the house in unincorporated Escondido, about 20 miles north of San Diego, saying it was too dangerous to continue investigating and removing the substances.
Gore said the house will be destroyed on Dec. 8 or after, depending on the weather.
"As soon as we get a clear weather pattern, we're going to go," he said.
But first, protective barriers will have to be built around the house, Gore said, and before the operation much of the surrounding neighborhood will be evacuated and Interstate 15 will be shut down.
The county declared a public emergency Tuesday to make the destruction possible.
Jakubec, a 54-year-old unemployed software consultant, pleaded not guilty last week to illegally making and possessing explosives and to robbing banks. Investigators suspect him of committing two holdups in San Diego County over the summer. He remained jailed on $5.1 million bail.
Authorities say it is unclear what Jakubec may have planned to do with the materials.
The explosives were discovered after a gardener was injured earlier this month in a blast that occurred when he stepped on explosive powder in the backyard, authorities said. Mario Garcia, 49, suffered eye, chest and arm injuries and was recovering.
The same types of chemicals have been used by suicide bombers and insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. They included Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, which was used in the 2001 airliner shoe-bombing attempt as well as in last month's airplane cargo bombs, authorities said.
The other chemicals were highly unstable Hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMTD, and Erythritol tetranitrate, or ETN, authorities said.
Neighbors were ambivalent about the planned destruction, with many expressing fears that the fire will cause harm and others saying it was the right move.
"I think they are looking out for our best interest," Alan Haghighi, 24, who lives next door, said after the meeting. "My primary concern is the consideration of life, and making sure no one gets hurt again. Unfortunately, they're willing to trade that off for my house burning to the ground."
Haghighi had just started an Internet business out of his home when the explosives were discovered and he was forced to leave.
"My biggest fear is that my livelihood will be taken from me," Haghighi said.
Authorities reassured him during the meeting that chances are slim his and other nearby houses will burn.
"The chemical effects of the fire will be neutralized very fast," San Marcos fire Chief Todd Newman said.