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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Escondido House Burn Operation: FAQ: Evacuations, safety, fire and cleanup

Frequently Asked Questions: Escondido House Burn Operation
Information about the planned burning of an Escondido house where a large amount of explosives were found.
On Monday evening, the San Diego Sheriff's Department and Escondido Police Department began distributing fliers to residents in the area who may need to evacuate or shelter-in-place.
Evacuation  |  Shelter-In-Place
Escondido House Burn Operation Map
Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place Zones (jpg)
The burn operation date has not been confirmed.  The fliers are being provided for planning purposes.  Authorities will notify residents once a date has been set and evacuations are needed.
When will it happen?
The burn is tentatively set for December 8, 9 or 10. The date could change depending on weather conditions. Bomb/Arson technicians and firefighters are looking for clear skies, mild winds (5 mph) coming off the west so the smoke goes straight up and dissipates east to Interstate 15.
How will you notify me about evacuations?
You will get a 24‐hour notice prior to the evacuation notice being issued. Sheriff’s deputies and Escondido police officers will knock on doors and the Sheriff’s Department will send out a Reverse 911 © call to affected residents. You can also get information through this website. Escondido Police will post updated information of its evacuation plan closer to the burn date. The evacuation is planned to begin the day before the burn day to allow residents plenty of time to evacuate to the evacuation center or alternate locations.
How long will I be evacuated?
Please plan to be evacuated for an entire day.
How many homes will be evacuated?
We don’t have the exact number yet, but there is a preliminary map on this website. Those on the red zone need to evacuate, while those on the yellow zone can shelter in place. Shelter in place means you should close your doors and windows, bring your pets indoors, and shut off any ventilation to keep the smoke out of your house.
Is there an evacuation site?
A designated evacuation site is being arranged. We will update the information when it becomes available.
What if I am disabled, elderly or have a medical condition, will I get help during the evacuation?
Sheriff’s deputies, Escondido police officers are available to help. Ambulances are also on standby in case of a medical emergency.
If I shelter in place and have a medical emergency can I still get help?
Yes, ambulances are on standby and hospitals are on alert. First responders can still get to you despite road closures during the burn.
Is there a place where I can bring my pet for shelter?
County Animal Services will provide a shelter for pets of evacuated residents.
If I shelter in place and have medical equipment at home, will I still have electricity?
There shouldn’t be utility interruptions in evacuated areas. The only utility issues are with the four affected homes.
Photo of homemade anti-personal fragmenting improvised explosives
Is this the only option?
Yes. There is so much clutter in the house, the Sheriff’s Bomb/Arson Unit robot can’t go in. There’s also residue on the floor so Bomb/Arson technicians with heavy gear can’t safely operate. It is the consensus of all the Bomb Technicians on scene, experts from the FBI Laboratory, Explosives Unit and Hazmat technicians on scene to render the hazardous materials by burning it in place.
Is it safe to destroy the explosives materials this way?
The experts we consulted studied how the chemicals will behave during the burn. They found the materials will burn and decompose within a half hour. Burning in place is an approved way of rendering explosives materials safe to avoid disturbing them.
Messy Bomb Lab
What about ammunition inside the house?
Bullets will burn when exposed to heat. They quickly lose energy as it is not contained and directed to go in a specific direction as it would when fired out of a barrel. It is unlikely that it would strike any potential hazards due to its location.
Is there any chance of a bigger explosion?
From our consultation with the experts, we do not expect a bigger explosion. If there is an explosion during the burn it will be contained within the house. If all blows up at the same time, projection models show an impact area of 60 to 70 feet.
What if there is a dirty bomb in the house?
A dirty bomb is an explosive device that contains radioactive material. Extensive testing of the residence was performed using state of the art detectors and NO radioactive material was found. Therefore, there is NO chance of a dirty bomb being present.
Homemade Grenade Casting
How will you keep the fire from spreading to other homes?
Firefighters are optimistic the fire will not spread to other homes, but they have hose lines on the ground as a precaution. Two Sheriff’s helicopters will also be in the air. There will brush clearing and tree trimming before the burn. Firefighters will also build a wall to protect next door homes from the heat. Other homes will be sprayed with protective gel.
If my house catches on fire during the burn, will you put it out?
What will happen to the site and damaged structure after the controlled burn?
County first responders and the fire department personnel will carefully survey the debris left after the burn to determine if any suspected chemicals or explosive materials survived the burn. If found, the appropriate agency will deal with the hazards and it will be retrieved from the damaged structure and safely disposed of.
How will the damaged structure and ash be cleaned up?
The State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will bring in their contractor who will perform the cleanup and debris removal following a written health and safety plan to protect health and safety and the environment.
When will the contractor start the cleanup work?
The County’s goal is to have DTSC’s contractor begin the removal process the day following the burn this will allow time for the debris to cool down and the County’s Hazmat team time to remove recognizable hazardous waste.
Will the site be secured to prevent unauthorized access?
Yes, the site will be secured and fenced to prevent unauthorized access.
Will the County be monitoring the cleanup work by the contractor?
The County Department of Environmental Health and DTSC will monitor the cleanup and debris removal to ensure it is properly completed and the waste properly disposed of. County hazardous materials staff will be available 24 hours a day to respond to assess any suspected hazardous materials uncovered during the site demolition work by the contractor.
Will ash and debris be removed from the site?
Yes, ash and structural debris will be removed from the site by DTSC’s contractor and taken to a permitted waste disposal facility.
How will ash, dust, and erosion be controlled?
DTSC’s contractor will install erosion control measures and dust suppression to prevent storm water runoff and dust problems from occurring.
What if ash or debris fell into my home?
Guidance for the best methods of removing ash and debris are being developed and will be posted on this website when completed. There is a guidance document available on the website from the Public and Environmental Health Departments.
What about air quality?
County HAZMAT is installing chemical detectors within a half‐mile radius. The burn and evacuated area is approximately a half‐mile in diameter. Hazmat and the command staff will be monitoring these sensors in real time to ensure there are no toxins in the air. The air quality readings from the detectors will be made available.
CHP Freeway Closure Plan
The CHP is currently planning to close both sides of Interstate 15 on the day of burning of the home.  Plans are being made to start the burn sometime between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. to lessen the impact to traffic.  The Hazardous Material Specialists are currently advising us that the freeway should remain closed until their air monitors advise the air is free from toxins.
We do not have an estimation on exactly how long the freeway will be closed.  However, it is anticipated that it will be less than three hours. 
The CHP, in conjunction with Cal-Trans, will be closing southbound traffic at Center City Parkway (just north of El Norte) and northbound traffic at state Route 78.
A detour will be placed directing traffic to exit both north and southbound to Center City Parkway.
Center City Parkway runs parallel to I-15 and will be utilized as the detour route.
CHP and Escondido Police Department will be providing traffic control in the area through out the closure.
Statement from Escondido Police Dept.
In the event of evacuation, the Escondido Police Department will strive to give a minimum of 24 hours notice for a planned event. The Department will provide traffic control points and security in the event of an evacuation. Local residents will be notified by reverse 911 and by door-to-door notification. When Escondido Police Department receives additional information, this information will be shared with the affected community. Escondido Police Department will be working with the San Diego Red Cross reference shelter for those who may be evacuated and do not have an alternate location to stay. In addition, those with special needs in the area are requested to call Lt. Tom Albergo at (760) 839-4901 to assist them with their evacuation needs.
More information:
12-6-10 Sheriff's Dept. Update (PDF)
12-3-10 Sheriff's Dept. Update (PDF)
12-2-10  Sheriff's Dept. Update (PDF)
11-30-10 Town Hall Meeting (PDF)

Photos from San Diego Sheriffs Department Link

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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